Conversation example:

A: Take that box upstairs!
B: Wait. (while he is busy doing something else).

How to say that wait in conversational Mandarin?

I feel 等一下 is too long. If you know Hokkien (Min Nan) language, people can say: tan lah.

I don't think 等啦 has equivalent feel with Hokkien "tan lah".

  • Just curious. Do English speakers say "Wait" to mean "wait a bit"? Dec 2, 2014 at 12:01
  • Probably, I'm not english speaker actually :)
    – null
    Dec 2, 2014 at 12:40
  • 2
    I'm a native English speaker (UK/Scotland). We would generally say 'wait a minute', 'wait a second', 'wait a bit' etc. Rarely would we just say 'wait', because it sounds quite rude.
    – Cocowalla
    Dec 2, 2014 at 12:45
  • Also I am curious about the implied duration in Hokkien 等啦. If it's say 10 seconds, Mandarin could beat it with 等几秒, but I know that's cheating.. Dec 2, 2014 at 13:20
  • 1
    In English, "Wait", while a bit strong to the ears, is a strong suggestion or command to stop. As a single word "wait" the command is open ended because the speaker probably wishes to remain in control of the situation. "Wait a minute/minute/second" passes control to the listener after the specified time passes. In Chinese wait is not meant to stop someone from doing something as much as it is meant to request a moment of the listener's time. Dec 4, 2014 at 5:12

5 Answers 5


等一下 is fine, but if you want shorter answers, there are other options:

  • 等等:pretty much the same as 等一下
  • 馬上:means immediately, will be there in a moment

These are the two word answers I can think of right now.


You may say 稍等. It is more polite than 等等.

  • 1
    +1 for politeness, which is important in many situations and also sounds more professional.
    – Gao
    Dec 2, 2014 at 14:19
  • 2
    But if you want to be less polite, I've heard people say 一下 the way you could say in English "one sec." Dec 2, 2014 at 18:38

等等 is as short as it gets, sorry. It doesn't have any hard to pronounce consonents. I mean even "hold on" in english, which is commonly spoken, has two syllables.


I heard most of Chinese (Mandarin) saying 等下 /deng xià/ to their friends...


等 等 is more of a command. It is to replace just 等 to mean 'wait' in English. Chinese prefer multi-syllable words: 妈妈, 妹妹, 宝宝, 听听, 说说, 毛毛, 猫猫, etc

等一下 is a more polite way (calmer tone) to say 等等; it imparts less intimidation, more like a request. The short version of this is 等下, and is commonly used in households & general public like shops, malls, etc.

A more respectable 稍等 is in formal situations or those which impart respect eg. in business ranks, politics, or to elderly.

等待 also means to 'wait' for someone or something to happen.

  • Sorry, but as a Mandarin-native speaker, I completely miss how 等等 can be less polite than 等一下. Imho, at this level, the tone is probably more important than the wording, e.g. saying 等一下 impatiently is much worse than casually saying 等等. Only 稍等 is imo substantially more polite than the two, and 请稍等 becomes even more formal and polite.
    – zypA13510
    Mar 22, 2020 at 11:41
  • The point about 等 等 & 等 is the same even in English eg. yes, vs yes yes, or quick vs quick quick. The repetition imparts a manner of not appearing arrogant, creating a calm & friendly atmosphere; often accompanied by a generous smile. Mandarin is a tonal language, hence the tone is much more important than the word itself; even a change in tone gives the word a different meaning eg. 毛毛 and 猫猫. 请 makes every word/phrase more formal. We 等下 in my family, and 稍等 to grandparents & visitors: 西安市, 陕西省
    – Zimba
    Mar 22, 2020 at 12:44

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