As far as the most commonly-used Italian words go, aspetta must be up near the top of the list.
You might not realise this if you’re studying Italian outside of the country. But once you arrive, there’s no doubt you’ll start hearing “aspetta!” everywhere you go. This was true in my case, and the meaning was perfectly clear: “wait!”
‘Aspetta’ is an interjection, or the imperative form of the verb aspettare (to wait, or wait for something). This form is exactly what you’d use in place of phrasal verbs like “hang on” or “hold up” in English.
– Aspetta, penso che abbiamo dimenticato qualcosa
– Hold on, I think we’ve forgotten something
– Aspetta, non ho finito
– 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?
Of course, it’s often just used alone as an exclamation.
And you’ll almost definitely hear Italians shortening it to aspè.
– Aspè, quel semaforo era rosso?
– Wait, was that traffic light red?
As someone who may never adjust to life in a country where people always seem to be either rushing headlong through things (including red lights) or taking their sweet time for no apparent reason, I find this word comes out of my mouth at least as often as andiamo (let’s go/come on/hurry up).
You can also hear aspetta used not as an exclamation, but as the third-person singular form of the verb aspettare.
– Giorgio aspetta l’autobus tutti giorni per andare a lavaro
– Giorgio waits for the bus to work every day
If you want to talk about waiting you could also use the verb attendere, which is slightly more formal.
It’s also where this comes from:
– 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 favore
– 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.
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