attendre vs s’attendre à

The verb attendre can cause a lot of confusion as it can mean to wait and to expect. In this post we’ll examine the verb in detail with example sentences. In a nutshell, in the non-pronominal form attendre means to wait while the pronominal s’attendre à means to expect.

attendre + direct object = to wait

The verb attendre means to wait. In French attendre is followed by a direct object, unlike English where one waits ‘for’ something. Here are some example sentences:

  • J’attends le bus depuis une heure. I’ve been waiting for the bus for one hour.
  • Je vous attends devant la gare. I’m waiting for you in front of the train station.
  • Attendez-moi ! Je ne suis pas prêt. Wait for me. I’m now ready.

s’attendre à = to expect

In the pronominal form, s’attendre à means to expect. Here are some example sentences:

  • Je m’attends à un miracle. I’m expecting a miracle.
  • Nous nous attendons à sa réponse. We’re expecting his reply.
  • Pourquoi est-ce que tu t’attends au pire ? Why are you expecting the worst?

Attendre que qqn/qqch fasse qqch means to wait for somebody or something to do something. Here’s an example:

  • J’attends que le train arrive. I’m waiting for the train to come.

The indirect object following s’attendre à gets replaced by the indirect object pronoun ‘y‘. Here’s an example:

  • Est-ce que vous attendez à un bon résultat ? – Oui. Je m’y attends. Are you expecting a good result? Yes, I’m expecting it.

What’s confusing is that attendre can also mean to expect. Here are some examples:

  • Le gérant attend des efforts de la part de ses ouvriers. The manager expects hard work from his workers.
  • Qu’attendez-vous des politiciens ? What do you expect from politicians?

A related noun to s’attendre à is une attente, an expectation.

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