Usually my Chinese is a good enough to recognize people saying new phrases I haven't learned yet.

Just now in a convenience store in Chiayi I'm sure the busy server just told me 一下 and I thought that must mean "wait a sec" but I assume it's very colloquial to use just 一下 without a verb or no longer sentence.

Is my hunch right or did I hear wrong?

  • 1
    Maybe you caught the end of it? Sounds kind of rude for how a server might act. Something like 稍等一下would be more appropriate in this scenario.
    – Mou某
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 4:34
  • @user3306356: Yes that's what I was thinking and why I had to ask. I know what's rude vs friendly can vary a lot by language and region too though. Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 5:12
  • 3
    don't think 一下 by itself is a valid expression. probably 等一下 where the 等 is pronounced lightly
    – Ben Yang
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 5:20
  • Sometime yes. Sometime it means one time. Think about a boy tells a girl on her virgin night, I only prong 一下 ...
    – Zhang
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 9:18
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    @hippietrail It's a brief way, but it might not be necessarily rude in this case. You shoud observe his/her attitude to determine whether he/she was being rude or not.
    – dan
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


My thought is:

He probably said '等一下' but you didn't hear the word '等' due to the noisy environment, or the speaker's volume was too low when he spoke

The only reason to use only '一下' (a sec') instead of the complete phrase '等一下' (wait a sec') is he knew you were waiting, and your expression told him that you were asking "How long do I have to wait?" in your mind, so he just gave you a short answer instead of a whole sentence, based on the presumption that you knew what '一下' was referring to. (referring to the length of time you have to wait-- a question that wasn't actually asked but implied in your manner)

Imagine a dog owner was eating and his dog looked at the food intensely, the dog owner might simply say "不" instead of a full sentence "狗不能吃人类的食物, 所以不能给你" because he presumed the dog would understand what the word "不" referring to. ( he imagined the dog was asking "can I have some?" - answer was "不" )

People give short answers all the time in conversation with the presumption of both of you knew what it meant

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