Asking someone to wait

In some languages, you tell people to wait using imperatives like “Wait, please” or “Wait a moment”. But in English, we prefer to use indirect language as imperatives can sound rude.

Here are two polite ways you can instruct people to wait in English.

1. Ask a question

The easiest way to get someone to wait is to ask them an indirect question like the following:

  • Could you wait a moment, please?
  • Would you mind waiting a few minutes, please?

Notice the questions state the amount of time the listener should wait and finish with please. These features are important for sounding polite.

Be aware, however, that asking someone to wait is only appropriate if you want them to wait a few minutes. It sounds unnatural when used with longer wait times.

2. Say you won’t be long

Another way to get someone to wait is to state when you expect to arrive. This style is especially useful if you want someone to wait for more than a few minutes.

Here are some examples:

  • I’ll be there soon.
  • I won’t be long.
  • I should arrive in about ten minutes.

These expressions sound politer than asking someone to wait as they shift the focus from the other person to ourselves, thus making our request less direct.

To sound even more polite, you should also state why you will be late and acknowledge the inconvenience your lateness may cause to the other person. This is especially important when you need someone to wait for a relatively long time.

Hi Sarah. I’m currently stuck in traffic but I should arrive in about ten minutes. Sorry to make you wait!


So, the next time you’re late for a meeting or class in English, remember that indirectness is the key to politely asking others to wait.