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Italian word of the day: 'Aspetta'

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Italian word of the day: 'Aspetta'
13:16 CEST+02:00
Hold on a minute. Aren't you using this word yet?

As far as the most commonly-used Italian words go, I think aspetta must be up near the top of the list.

Somehow this word didn’t get a mention in any of my various beginner-level Italian courses, apps or books. But as soon as I arrived in Italy, I started hearing people say aspetta all the time.

And the meaning was perfectly clear: wait!

It’s an interjection, or the imperative form of the verb aspettare (to wait, or wait for something) and you’d use this form in place of phrasal verbs like “hang on” in English.

- Aspetta, penso che abbiamo dimenticato qualcosa

- Hold on, I think we’ve forgotten something 

- Aspetta, non ho finite

- Wait up, I haven’t finished

- Aspetta un attimo, a chi si sta riferendo in questo punto?

- Wait a moment, who are we talking about here?

Here are the two ways (that I can remember) having already used aspetta today:

- Aspetta, il semaforo e rosso

- Wait, the light’s red

- Aspetta a scolare la pasta, non e cotta

- Don’t drain the pasta yet, it’s not cooked

Living in a country where people always seem to be either rushing through things (including red lights) or taking their sweet time for no apparent reason, I now find this word comes out of my mouth multiple times a day - along with andiamo (let’s go/come on/hurry up).

And you might hear Italians just shortening it to aspè.

You can also hear aspetta used as the third-person singular form of the verb aspettare.

- Giorgio aspetta l’autobus tutti giorni per andare a lavaro

- George waits for the bus to work every day

If you want to talk about waiting in general – and if you live in Italy, you’ll know all about waiting – you could also use the verb attendere, which is slightly more formal than aspettare.

It’s also where this comes from:

-sala d'attesa

- Waiting room

And you might hear people say attenda instead of aspetta. Again, same thing but slightly more formal.

- Attenda il suo turno dietro la linea gialla, per favour

- Wait your turn behind the yellow line, please

After a job interview you could hear:

- Attenda che le faremo sapere

- We’ll let you know (literally: wait for us to let you know.)

And finally, an Italian saying:

- Chi la fa l’aspetti

- Literally “Who does it waits for it”, meaning that a person who does bad things can expect bad things in return.

Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.

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