What Does Chotto Matte Mean?

ちょっとまって (chotto matte) means “wait a moment,” and it’s used in a wide variety of situations, from everyday conversation to more formal scenarios. 

How to Use Chotto Matte in Japanese

ちょっと (chotto) is a very useful word you are probably already familiar with. It means “a little bit, slightly.” 

Chotto is an informal expression, but if used with the proper context and with the correct verb tense – as we will go through later on – it is adaptable in formal situations too.

待って(matte) comes from the verb 待つ (matsu) “to wait” in the –te form. The te form followed by ください (kudasai) is used to express an imperative form.  

Using the te-form + kudasai form with friends is a little too formal. If you want to add more politeness within informal language, opt to use the verb kureru (to receive something from someone) and ask “chotto matte kureru?” which means “Can you do me the favor to wait a bit?”. 

Example Sentences:

1. ちょっと待って!財布忘れちゃった!
(Chotto matte! Saifu wasurechatta!)
Wait a minute. I forgot my wallet!

2. ちょっと待ってくれる? もうすぐ家を出るから。
(Chotto matte kureru? Mo sugu ie wo deru kara.)
Can you wait a bit? I’m going out soon!

Chotto Matte Kudasai

Simply adding kudasai after chotto matte makes the expression softer and more polite.

You can use chotto matte kudasai in more formal environments, with strangers, older people, and superiors at the workplace.

Example Sentences:

1 .お姉さん、ちょっと待ってください。忘れものですよ!
(Onēsan, chotto matte kudasai. Wasuremono desu yo!)
Hey, wait a minute! You forgot something!

2. 田中さん、ちょっと待ってください。今すぐメールを送ります。
(Tanaka san, chotto matte kudasai. Ima sugu mēru o okurimasu.)
Mr. Tanaka, just a moment, please. I’ll send the email right away.

Chotto matte kudasai is an imperative form, but unlike in English, where we would usually pose a question to request something, in Japanese, using the imperative form with kudasai is very common and perfectly acceptable in formal environments.

Add kudasai whenever you think it is appropriate to avoid being too informal. If you don’t know how formal you should be, saying kudasai to sound polite is always a good choice. It is always better to start a conversation using polite/formal Japanese than casual/informal Japanese.  

Shōshō Omachi Kudasai: For Formal Occasions

Let’s take a look at a more formal way to say chotto matte kudasai.

If you are in a formal environment (talking to customers, speaking with your boss, etc.), the more formal 少々お待ちください (shōshō omachi kudasai) is what you should use.  

The expression, “shōshō omachi kudasai” is often used in Japan. You can hear it on the phone, in department stores, convenience stores, etc., and it is one of the most fundamental expressions used in the customer service industry.

少々 (shōshō ) means “a little while” or “a small amount of something.” It is similar in meaning to ちょっと (chotto), but is more polite.  

お待ち (omachi) is the keigo form of matsu.  Some verbs can be changed to the keigo form by taking the verb stem and adding an お(o) in the front of it:

待ちます (masu form) –> remove the ます (masu) –> add an (honorific) お(o) in the front 

Example Conjugation:

Matsu -> 待ちます (machimasu) –> 待ちます(machimasu) –> お(o) +待ち (machi) = お待ち (omachi)

Then add ください (kudasai) at the end. Omachi kudasai is the same as matte kudasai form but in keigo form.  

Example Sentences:

1. 少々お待ちください。次にご案内します。
(Shōshō omachi kudasai. Tsugi ni go annai shimasu.)
Just a moment, please. I will next guide you through the process.

2. 少々お待ちください。確認します。
(Shōshō omachi kudasai. Kakunin shimasu.)
Just a moment, please. I’ll check.

Final Thoughts

Mastering chotto matte is very easy:

  • Use chotto matte with friends and family or when we are in a casual environment.
  • Add kudasai when we feel like maintaining a certain level of formality.

Remember those simple points and boost up your confidence in communicating in Japanese right away!

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