This is a question that came up in my translation class but my tutor was a little contradictory. He said that "s'attendre à quelque chose" is used where there is a connotation of anticipation, and that "attendre quelque chose" is used to express "to expect." However, the examples he gave us didn't really fit that pattern, and we didn't discuss the nuances of "s'attendre à ce que" either.

Can someone please explain the differences in usage of these? Cheers.

2 Answers 2

  1. S'attendre à quelque chose: you are NOT sure of what you are waiting (expect, hope ...).
  2. Attendre quelque chose: you are sure of what you are waiting for (it will happen, it is just a matter of time)
  • 1
    The example we had been given that fits this perfectly is The village clock had just struck midnight when she received the phone call she had expected for so long and we were told to use attendre qc. It makes sense now! Cheers.
    – blue
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 23:22
  • Does 1. hold with «à ce que» as well? Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 12:54
  • with à ce que you are bound to the context; I mean it can be the case of 1 or 2. @BenKnoble
    – user6768
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 12:58
  • Ah merci beaucoup. Je le comprends. Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 13:00

This is a case where there should be no problem, the two verbs have a clear different meaning and have a straightforward translation in English.

attendre quelque chose is to wait for something, s'attendre à quelque chose is to expect something

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