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How to Ask Someone to Wait in English

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

There are several instances in everyday life when you may want someone to ask someone to wait.

How do you communicate this without sounding too harsh or urgent? Saying 'WAIT!' is often not the best option. It actually sounds a bit pushy or rude, doesn't it?

The word 'wait' is generally best used when there is no time to think of more polite expressions. Or, perhaps, when you're with someone who knows you well. Sometimes we used it to express shock or disbelief, like this: 'Wait. What!?'

In this post, we're going to do a full breakdown of some of the best ways to ask someone to wait, both formally, and informally.

Let's get started!

Meaning and Usage

Fun fact: The words 'wait' and 'weight' are homophones. They sound the same!

Regarding the forms: 'Waiting' is an ongoing action (past or present continuous verb), and 'wait' is usually a command that someone to do the action of 'waiting' (so, it's a verb). It can also be used as a noun, like this: 'We had a 12-hour wait.'

Informal Ways to Ask Someone to Wait

Here are some casual ways to ask someone to wait in everyday conversations:

  • Hold on a second

  • Hold on a sec

  • Hold on a minute

  • One sec

  • One minute

  • Just a sec

  • Just a minute

  • Give me a second

  • Give me a minute

  • Hang on a second

  • Hang on a sec

  • Hang on a minute

  • Wait for a second

  • Wait a minute

Note: Many of these use forms of 'second' and 'minute' but do not actually refer to only one second or minute. Usually, the amount of time isn't so exact. Although, a sec does suggest less time than a minute (often but not always). Again, to be clear, asking someone to wait 'a sec' doesn't literally refer to one second.

Hold Your Horses

The phrase 'hold your horses' is an informal way to ask someone to stop doing what they’re doing or to wait for you. It may also be used when someone is a little too eager, and you want to make them slow down a bit, or be patient. In that sense, it is different from the phrases mentioned above because it’s not applicable everywhere.

Imagine your friend gets up to leave, and you suddenly remember you have something to say. There 'hold your horses!' wouldn't be natural. Instead, it would be better to say: 'Hang on a sec, I just remembered something'.

You might say 'hold your horses' when a friend is urging everyone to get in the car, but you're still trying to figure out how to close your umbrella.

Not So Fast

Similar to the phrase above, 'not so fast' also has a special use case. You can use it when you want to stop someone from acting too quickly, especially if they’ve done something wrong or they're trying to escape the situation without facing bad consequences.

You may see it in movies when the bad guy is about to get away. As he is about to make his getaway, the hero steps in and says, 'not so fast'.

Here's a compilation of 'not so fast' lines from shows and movies:

Formal Ways to Ask Someone to Wait

Now, let’s check out some formal ways of asking someone to wait. These include:

  • Just a moment, please.

  • Please bear with me.

  • Please wait a moment.

  • This should just take a moment.

Many customer service representatives or store associates may use them when communicating with customers. They create a professional feeling, as opposed to: 'Wait! I'll get that for you!'

You can learn more about these expressions in my full video on the topic. Check it out!

Well, friends and neighbors, that's all for now. Good luck asking people to wait! It's very important to use what you learn as often as possible so that you don't need to think too much when you find yourself in those situations.

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