The Italian verb attendere (to wait, to await)

The Italian verb attendere to wait

Written by Federica  in Italian language

What is the meaning of attendere?

The Italian verb attendere means, primarily, to wait or to await. It is also used as to attend to, although this latter meaning is less frequent and a little more antiquated.

When attendere means to wait, it is a false friend for an English speaker, in that it resembles the English verb to attend, but its meaning is different. More rarely, when attendere means to attend to, it is not a false friend for an English speaker.

The verb to attend in English and attendere in Italian both have the same Latin origin: ad + tendere (to stretch toward). It is very common for English and Italian words which have a common Latin root to be false friends, at least in one of their meanings, if they have a double meaning.

What conjugation does attendere belong to?

Attendere belongs to the second Italian conjugation. Its infinitive form ends in -ere (attendere), the past participle form is atteso (irregular) and the gerund ends in -endo (attendendo).

Is attendere regular or irregular?

Attendere is an irregular verb, therefore its verb endings don’t follow a regular pattern throughout the conjugation, although the only irregularity of attendere lies in the past participle, which is atteso rather than attenduto, as you would expect if attendere were a regular verb.

Does attendere use an essere or avere auxiliary?

Italian compound tenses such as the present perfect (passato prossimo) require the main verb to be preceded by an auxiliary, essere or avere

The verb attendere takes the avere auxiliary in compound tenses (for example hanno atteso le notizie tutto il pomeriggio – they waited for the news all afternoon).

In Italian, attendere is both a transitive and intransitive verb. It is transitive when used with a direct object (for example attendiamo le notiziewe are waiting for the news) and intransitive when it means to attend to (for example attendo ai miei doveriI attend to my duties). In both cases, attendere takes the avere auxiliary.

Uses of attendere

Attendere is mainly used in formal contexts such as client-company relationships, public places (both in writing and speaking), offices, and so on.

Here are some examples:

  • Attendiamo l’ esito delle analisi – we are waiting for the test results (this phrase is quite formal and well suited to a medical setting)
  • Attenda in linea per favore – hold the line please (this phrase is for use in a phone call and it addresses the person with the formal lei in the third person subjunctive of attendere, used as an imperative)
Use of the Italian verb attendere
Use of the Italian verb attendere: Attenda in linea per favore – hold the line please
  • La preghiamo di attendere – please wait (this is a formal phrase which literally says “we beg you to wait”. It is used to manage queues on the phone and to make written or spoken announcements to customers, users of a service, etc.
  • Attendo con ansia tue notizie – I look forward to your news (the literal meaning of this is “I anxiously wait for your news”. It is quite a formal phrase more suitable to written Italian, such as in a letter or email)
  • Ho atteso per due ore – I waited for two hours (this phrase is slightly more formal than if you were to use the synonym aspettare and say ho aspettato per due ore instead)
  • Devo attendere ai miei doveri – I must attend to my duties (this phrase is quite formal and slightly antiquated)

How to use attendere with conjuctions and prepositions

Attendere che + subject + verb

Attendere can be followed by the conjunction che, which means that in Italian, and is used to introduce a subordinate clause. In English, attendere che… means to wait for….something to happen/ someone to do something.

Here is an example:

  • I pazienti attendono che arrivi il loro turno – the patients are waiting for it to be their turn (literally this translates to “the patients are waiting that their turn arrives”)

Attendere di + infinitive

The preposition di is also commonly used with attendereDi can take various meanings in Italian. Attendere di + verb means to wait to do something. Note that with aspettare di the subject of the main and dependent clauses is the same:

  • I pazienti attendono di entrare dal medico – the patients are waiting to go into the doctor’s

Italian set phrases with attendere

The Italian verb attendere is most commonly used in formal situations and relationships so set phrases with attendere are mainly used in announcements and messages. For example:

  • Attendere prego – please wait

This is the standard, polite, way to say “please wait” in a message or announcement Italian. It is seen and heard in messages and announcements of various kinds.

The Italian phrase attendere prego
Attendere prego is the standard polite way to say please wait in a message or announcement in Italian.
  • Si prega di attendere – please wait

This is an even more polite way to say “please wait” in Italian. The literal meaning is “you are begged to wait”.

Synonyms of attendere

The closest synonym of attendere is aspettare, which also means to wait but is less formal and more widely applicable than attendere.

There are three main nouns which are closely related to the verb attendere:

  • Attendente – orderly.

The word attendente is the participle form of the verb attendere, and it reminds us of the English word attendant and waiter. However, attendente in Italian is confined to a military setting and means orderly. It is worth noting that the Italian for flight attendant is not attendente but assistente di volo.

  • Attesa – wait

Ho provato ad arrivare in tempo ma l’ attesa per comprare il biglietto è stata lunghissima

I tried to arrive on time but the wait to buy the ticket was very long

The word attesa means wait, and is not to be confused with the past participle (feminine) of attendere, which is a verb.

Use of the Italian word attesa
Use of the Italian word attesa: Ho provato ad arrivare in tempo ma l’ attesa per comprare il biglietto è stata lunghissima – I tried to arrive on time but the wait to buy the ticket was very long

The complete conjugation of attendere

In the table below you can see the complete conjugation of attendere in all tenses and moods.

Present indicativeattendoattendiattendeattendiamoattendeteattendono
Present perfect indicativeho attesohai attesoha attesoabbiamo attesoavete attesohanno atteso
Imperfect indicativeattendevoattendeviattendevaattendevamoattendevateattendevano
Past perfect indicativeavevo attesoavevi attesoaveva attesoavevamo attesoavevate attesoavevano atteso
Remote past indicativeattesi attendestiatteseattendemmoattendesteattesero
Preterite perfect indicativeebbi attesoavesti attesoebbe attesoavemmo attesoaveste attesoebbero atteso
Simple future indicativeattenderòattenderaiattenderàattenderemoattendereteattenderanno
Future perfect indicativeavrò attesoavrai attesoavrà attesoavremo attesoavrete attesoavranno atteso
Present conditionalattendereiattenderestiattenderebbeattenderemmoattenderesteattenderebbero
Past perfect conditionalavrei attesoavresti attesoavrebbe attesoavremmo attesoavreste attesoavrebbero atteso
Present gerundattendendoattendendoattendendoattendendoattendendoattendendo
Past gerundavendo attesoavendo attesoavendo attesoavendo attesoavendo attesoavendo atteso
Present subjunctiveattendaattendaattendaattendiamoattendiateattendano
Present perfect subjunctiveabbia attesoabbia attesoabbia attesoabbiamo attesoabbiate attesoabbiano atteso
Imperfect subjunctiveattendessiattendessiattendesseattendessimoattendesteattendessero
Past perfect subjunctiveavessi attesoavessi attesoavesse attesoavessimo attesoaveste attesoavessero atteso
Table showing the complete conjugation of the verb attendere in all Italian tenses