'Wait' or 'Wait for'? Which One Is Correct? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 12 June 2024)

Wait or Wait for: Which One Is Correct? 

When it comes to using the verb wait, one of the most common errors involves incorrectly omitting the preposition for when specifying the object of the verb—that is, whom or what one is waiting for:

✅ I'll wait for John outside the theatre. (object: John)
I'll wait John outside the theatre.

✅ Can you wait for your brother outside the school? (object: your brother)
Can you wait your brother outside the school?

✅ The children are waiting for their parents to pick them up. (object: their parents)
The children are waiting their parents to pick them up.

✅ Wait for the signal before you start. (object: the signal)
Wait the signal before you start.

✅ He's waiting for the right opportunity to discuss the project. (object: the right opportunity)
He's waiting the right opportunity to discuss the project.

We use wait without for if the object is not mentioned, or if the verb is used as a discourse marker:

✅ Can you just wait?
❌ Can you just wait for?

Wait here until I come back.
Wait for here until I come back.

She told me to wait while she fetched her coat.
She told me to wait for while she fetched her coat.

Wait, are you serious?
Wait for, are you serious?

Wait, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat it?
Wait for, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat it?

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Examples from the Media

At a nearby hospital, Viangly Infante Padrón, a 31-year-old Venezuelan migrant seeking asylum in the U.S. with her husband and three children, waited for her husband, who was being treated for smoke inhalation. Toronto Star (2023)

Another Lioness star has insisted the England World Cup stars had 'no idea' that fans were waiting for them at Heathrow when they landed. —Daily Mail (2023)

Bare said the cost of financing, building materials and labour can increase while waiting for a DA approval. The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)

You have to wait for your shift. —The Washington Post (2020) 

Wait, do you get fewer presents if you're born that close to Christmas?Otago Daily Times (2017)

With switching offers, there will be certain time periods you'll need to wait before you get your reward  but if it's not in time for Christmas it could come in handy in the New Year when budgets are really stretched. —Belfast Telegraph (2019)


Choose the correct option to complete each sentence.

1. We need to wait/wait for the rain to stop.

2. Please wait/wait for me!

3. We need to wait/wait for the guests to arrive before we start dinner.

4. Wait/Wait for, before we continue, I just remembered something important.

5. You should wait/wait for the results before making any decisions.

6. Wait/Wait for the speaker to finish before asking questions.

7. Wait/Wait for, what did you just say?

8. We are waiting/waiting for the next bus.

9. Wait/Wait for the water to boil before adding the noodles.

10. Everyone's waiting/waiting for. Hurry up!

11. Everyone is waiting/waiting for the celebrity to make an appearance.

12. Wait/Wait for, let me think about that for a moment.

13. They have to wait/wait for the paint to dry completely.

14. We'll wait/wait for you downstairs.

Answer Key

1. wait for    2. wait for    3. wait for    4. Wait    5. wait for    6. Wait for    7. Wait    8. waiting for    9. Wait for    10. waiting    11. waiting for    12. Wait    13. wait for    14. wait for

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. The verb waiting requires the preposition for when it is followed by a person or thing being awaited.
2. [Country/City] welcomes you with the simple present tense welcomes is more commonly used in official and formal contexts to greet visitors.
3. The definite article the is needed to specify a particular room.
4. There are is needed to make the sentence grammatically complete and to specify the existence of the medals. Additionally, in formal writing, it is standard practice to write out numbers from one to ten as words.
5. Win is the correct verb to use in this context, as it makes more sense to win medals rather than to challenge them.
6. Been is the correct past participle to use with have in the present perfect continuous tense (have been waiting).
7. Do not should be written as two separate words.

1. Mum (or mom in American English) is the more commonly understood term in English.
2. The verb waiting requires the preposition for when indicating who or what is being awaited.
3. The object pronoun us can be used to replace Mum and me to make the sentence more concise.
4. The correct pronoun to use as the object of the preposition for is me, not I.
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