In Argentina (I'm not sure if it counts for other spanish speaking countries) when we have doubts before saying something, sometimes we say "ehhhh", this can be done voluntarily or involuntarily, sometimes having doubts before speaking will trigger "ehhhh"'s without we want it to say it, not done purposely to express doubt. Is eto a word with a similar function? This looks so to me in films, but may be it's nothing like that. What is eto for or what does it mean exactly?


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Sorry I don't know the "ehhhh" in Argentina, but I know ええと{eeto} and it's not an interjection, basing on the definition of interjection under Merriam Webster. ええと is what you say when you are still thinking of the exact words that you really want to say, but just don't want the person you are talking to, to wait. It's like "er..", "uhhh", "well...", etc. in English. For example:

Question: [明日]{Ashita}[の]{no}[飲み会]{nomikai}[は]{wa}[参加]{sanka}[しますか]{shimasu ka}。

Are you coming to tomorrow's drinking party?

Answer: ええと{Eeto}、まだ{mada}[決めていない]{kimete inai}のですが{no desu ga}[今夜]{konya}[帰る]{kaeru}までに{made ni}[決める]{kimeru}ので{node}、[もう]{mou}[少し]{sukoshi}[待って]{matte}くれる{kureru}?

Uh...I still haven't decided on that, but I will before leaving tonight. Can you wait some more?

However, as pointed out by Halfway Dillitante, it could also show hesitation or doubt especially when in combination with facial expressions or tone of voice. In the same example, the person being asked may have actually decided whether to come or not, but just didn't want to give his answer straight away. In Japanese society, outright refusal can sometimes be frowned upon. This is similar to situations when Japanese say [難しい]{muzukashii} when they actually wanted to say "No" to something like a request or invitation but didn't want to offend the person asking.

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    I would like to note that IN CONTEXT, when used together with facial expressions, tones, etc., I have seen ええと。。。 used to imply that they are hesitant to agree with something or to accept an invitation for something. Japanese society is one of those where outright refusal or contradiction can be frowned upon, so people use other roundabout tactics to say no even though they say "Yes" or "Maybe". I find having to read between the lines like this frustrating at times, and people who aren't especially good at reading social cues or reading between the lines often have a hard time navigating. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 3:53
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    Thanks Halfway Dillitante. I agree that it could mean hesitation when combined with facial expressions. I somehow missed the "show doubt before speaking" in the title. I'll revise the answer (not sure if I still can) to reflect your note.
    – DXV
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 5:33

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