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answerjill's avatar

Do you say "waiting for" or "waiting on"?

Asked by answerjill (5693 points ) December 6th, 2010

I grew up in NY and have lived in various places on the East coast of the USA. In these places, one would say that one is “waiting for” [a person, an event, etc]. When I was in high school, I met some kids from Indiana who used the phrase “waiting on” instead of “waiting for.” [example: “We can’t leave yet because we’re waiting on Kyle.”] That surprised me because where I was from, to “wait on” someone meant to serve them, like in a restaurant. These days, I listen to country music and I hear the “wait on” phrase in the lyrics from time to time. I’m just curious about the geographical distribution of the use of the two phrases. Where are you from and/or where do you live, and which phrase do you use to express that you need to wait?

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22 Answers

Seelix's avatar

“Waiting for” in Ontario, but I’ve heard “waiting on” as well.

wundayatta's avatar

Both. Depending on who you’re talking to. If it’s people with an attitude, it’s “waiting on.” If it’s people with aspirations, it’s “waiting for.”

muppetish's avatar

I have heard it both ways (“Waiting on the world to change”, for example), but I only say “waiting for”. Prepositions are interesting little buggers.

mrentropy's avatar

I use both. I use “for” when I’m waiting for people and “on” when I’m waiting for things.
I’m waiting for Godot who, I think, is waiting on his laundry to finish.

Winters's avatar

Depends, if I’m in a good mood or I like the person, it’s waiting for, otherwise it’s waiting on

lillycoyote's avatar

I use both to mean spending time waiting for something to happen but mostly I use “waiting for” for that and “waiting on” to mean what waiters and waitresses do, for “waiting on” a table. But in NY I think they also use “waiting on line” to mean what I would use the term “waiting in line” for.

There are all sorts of regional differences in speech. When I moved to Oregon it was really hard to get the hang of using the word “sack” for “bag.” You would go into a store and buy something and the clerk would ask you “Do you want a sack for that?” And where I was from, the MId-Atlantic, the word bag was used. It wasn’t really all that hard until I started working in a book store and I had to ask the question myself, had to actually say “sack” myself rather than just respond yes or no.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I usually say “waiting for”, but I noticed that I say “waiting on” when I’m in a pissy mood. Portland, Oregon here.

lillycoyote's avatar

@DrasticDreamer You Portlanders and your damn “sack” thing. :-) I don’t know if that was all of Oregon but I lived in Portland for 11 years and that’s where I encountered the use of the word sack instead of bag

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@lillycoyote Yeah, people in these here parts use “sack” and “bag” interchangeably. ;) Unless you’re talking about a backpack or purse (or something similar) – and then it’s always “bag”.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I grew up hearing “waiting on”. I don’t use it except in the context of service. I say “waiting for”.

The Rolling Stones used “waiting on” for one of their last big hit songs.

augustlan's avatar

East coast, mid-Atlantic region. Generally, I wait for people and on things. I have no idea why. That “on line” versus “in line” thing has always interested me, too. I always say “in line”. I wonder why we pick up different ways of saying the same things?

downtide's avatar

In the UK we always say waiting for, if you’re waiting for someone, or waiting for something. Waiting on would be specifically related to serving food in restaurants. “I’m waiting on table 4” would mean “I’m serving the customers on table 4”.

lillycoyote's avatar

@augustlan And here, sweetie, is another one for you, dealing with one of the other great U.S. regionalisms, the soda, pop, coke thing. Here is a map, by county (!!!) of where the various terms are used, obviously created by people with way too much time on their hands. When I moved to Texas it was the first time I encountered the word ” Coke” or the phrase “a Coke or something” to refer generically to any kind of soda. It’s kind of interesting. I’m quite curious about the very few dark green spots where more than 80% of the respondents referred to soda or pop or “coke” as the Texans say by some other term. They just list it as “other” but don’t specify what term or word the people in those few areas use instead of the top three.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, @lillycoyote, that one drives me crazy! Soda, all the way.

lillycoyote's avatar

@augustlan That was one of the weirder things I encountered in Texas when I moved there; them referring to any kind of soda as “coke.” And yes, I kind of insulted these people as “having too much time on their hands” but it really is kind of fascinating to look at the distribution, across the country, of the various terms.

augustlan's avatar

Maybe those other folks say “cola”? The weirdest one to me is “Coke”, since it’s a very specific type of soda. It’s not really the same as calling all tissues “Kleenex”, or all adhesive bandages “Band-Aids”, you know?

lillycoyote's avatar

@augustlan Yes it is weird, at least to the rest of us, but it’s very southern, the “coke” thing as a generic term, because even tissues that aren’t Kleenex are pretty much the same thing as Kleenex but a 7-Up or a Root Beer or a Dr. Pepper are quite different things than Coke.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m in Western NY and over 40. I wait for an object, event, person.
“I can’t wait for Summer!” “I’m waiting for Mrs Henry to arrive”
A service person actively taking care of a customer is “waiting on.”
“The waitress is waiting on Mrs. Henry’s table.”

That said, “Candy, the new dancer is waiting on the table.” can have two meanings.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I wait for stuff, but after all those years living in the West, I ask the person who is waiting on me to bring me a pop when I’m thirsty.

@lillycoyote: Love the map!

OpryLeigh's avatar

I have always said “waiting for…..”

downtide's avatar

The “coke” thing both amuses and confuses me. We only call it coke if it says Coke on the can. We don’t even call Pepsi coke.

pearls's avatar

I use waiting for when it is a person and waiting on if the arrival of a plane, train, etc.

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