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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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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on FrenchLearner, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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