On the WordReference page for "attendre", one of the entries is as follows:

attendre vtr (compter sur une action)
expect⇒ vi

Et maintenant qu'attendez-vous de lui ?
And now what do you expect of him?

The "vtr" tells me that this entry is for a transitive version of the verb "attendre". This means that it takes an object.

But, from looking at that first line of the entry, I don't know if it can take a direct object, or an indirect object, or both. And, if it can take an indirect object, I don't know if the indirect object will be introduced by an "à" or a "de".

The example sentence shows that "de lui" is an indirect object, but I expect example sentences to be extra confirmation of information already communicated in the dictionary entry. Also, the example sentence doesn't tell me if the object is always an indirect object using "de", or if instead a direct object, or an indirect object with "à", could be used.

1) By looking at this dictionary entry, how do I know if "attendre" in this entry takes a direct or indirect object (or both), and supposing that it can take an indirect object, if the indirect object will use "à" or "de" (or possibly both) ?

2) Some of WordReference's other entries for "attendre" are also transitive, but they explicitly say if the objects are direct or indirect, and if indirect, which of à or de introduces the indirect object. For example:

  • attendre [qqn/qch] (vtr) tells me that attendre for that entry takes a direct object
  • s'attendre à [qch] (pron + prép) tells me that attendre for that entry takes an indirect object introduced with à

Why does WordReference's entry for attendre vtr (compter sur une action) not give more information, unlike other entries it gives for attendre? Notably, the TLFi in LPH's answer below has an entry for WR's attendre (competer sur une action), but it explains all the objects -- why did WordReference not do the same?

That is, perhaps it is an omission in the WR dictionary? Or perhaps WR considered this usage too obvious to be listed? Or perhaps WR considered this usage to be too rare and thus not important? Or perhaps it would be impossible to list all or most entries for attendre that people use, and so dictionaries have to make a decision on what to list and what not to list, and sometimes they make entries like attendre vtr (compter sur une action) that intentionally leaves out information, to indicate meaning, but intentionally leaves out the many forms (eg, what indirect objects it takes, etc) that that verb can be used with that meaning? Or perhaps some other reason?

1 Answer 1


You do have both a direct object and an indirect object in this sentence.

  • Et maintenant qu' (direct) attendez-vous de lui (indirect) ?

The only sense for "attendre qqc de qqn ou qqc" is IB1.c) in the TLFi. There is no other preposition used with the "coi" than "de" in this sense. The preposition "à" would introduce an adverbial and the sens would be changed (Il l'attends à la sortie. — Ils nous attendent au tournant. (very colloquial), …)

c) Attendre qqc. (de bon) de qqn ou de qqc. Espérer un heureux résultat de l'action ou des capacités de quelqu'un, d'une action sur quelque chose.

  • Attendre beaucoup de qqn
  • n'attendre son salut que de soi-même
  • attendre qqc. de l'étude d'un document
  • ce qu'on attend d'une invention

You can see now that you might get this sort of information from a more comprehensive dictionary, such as for instance the TLFi. In the TLFi, when the object and indirect object are optional the words "qqc" and "qqn" used to represent them will be between parentheses; here there are none, which means than you can't dispense with either a "cod " or a "coi ".

  • Ils attendaient d'eux. Ils attentaient d'eux quelque chose que l'accusateur ne comprends pas.
  • Si vous attendez trop de lui vous serez déçue.

I believe, however, that the "coi " can be omitted at least when the sentence is negative (in some cases);

  • N'attendez pas trop. — (better) N'en attendez pas trop. ("en" shouldn't't be representing a person, although in the spoken language this ule is often disregarded.) — N'attendez pas trop [de lui/de sa part]. (user LPH)

  • Je vous avais prévenue Sarah. N'attendez pas trop de gratitude. (google)

  • Sinon, faites comme moi : lisez, rêvez, jouissez de la vie, elle en vaut la peine ; et n'attendez pas trop. » (google)

By looking at the entry, grammar tells without ambiguity—rare circumstance—that "que" must be a direct object as this word can't be a conjunction ("que" being a conjunction entails the presence of two verbs.); "que" can only be the object interrogative pronoun, then. Of course, this is a particular case; for the general case ("Il attend des informations supplémentaires de l'organisation.") it is difficult to tell if you haven't developped some familiarity with the concept; particularly in this case, as you can invert the order of the objects ("Il attend de l'organisation des informations supplémentaires."); you might even not be able to tell which is which without relying on a context.

Whether a complete information on the prepositions is available or whether you can do away with an object depends on the dictionary and sometimes even the best dictionaries do not tell you that. As concerns the prepositions, some dictionaries do give all the possibilities but others don't.

  • Thanks for your lengthy reply! I have many questions and reactions. 1) Because my French abilities are still very new, I didn't even think of the qu' in Maintentant qu' as being an object pronoun; my brain thought it was a conjunction. Your post was eye-opening in this way. 2) What does (de bon) mean in that TLFi entry? 3) Does that TLFi entry let me know that the coi can sometimes be omitted in the negative? 4) Your clarification about context being necessary sometimes (in your second last paragraph) was illuminating. Partitive articles can make identifying COI/Ds tricky!
    – silph
    Dec 17, 2019 at 11:48
  • 5) Do you know of a good French dictionary written in English? WordReference is the best one I know of, but it seems to have omissions. My French isn't yet good enough to use the TLFi productively. 6) I'm going to add one question to my edit, asking why WordReference might have left out the information that the TLFi explained to us.
    – silph
    Dec 17, 2019 at 11:50
  • 1
    @silph 2/ What is expected is understood to be something good; you use this verb only in this way. If the expectation is of an uncertain sort or certain and of either type you use the pronominal form (Je ne m'attends à rien de bon de sa part. Je m'attends à des améliorations. On ne sait pas à quoi s'attendre du temps en cette saison.) but the sense is somewhat stronger ("espérer" vs "compter sur"). 3: No, no such information appears there, which corroborates my affirmations.
    – LPH
    Dec 17, 2019 at 12:01
  • 1
    @silph There is no use asking such a question bout WordReference (you might though); dictionaries require large corpuses and a lot of lexicographers and time; the 9th edition of the Academie's dictionary was started in 1986 and is not yet finished. Those are two of the reasons for the incompleness of dictionaries. No, I know of no such dictionary you are asking about; however, you shouldn't be discouraged by the difficulty in the TLFi; remember that learning is in doing. Even if is difficult at the start you'll be learning the language itself, not just about the words you are looking up.
    – LPH
    Dec 17, 2019 at 12:20
  • I honestly did not have the understanding that dictionaries are so difficult to write, that it's reasonable to expect them to have omissions; so it's useful to hear to mention (for example) the example of even the Academie's dictionary being incomplete.
    – silph
    Dec 17, 2019 at 12:25

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