Waiting for the train confuses me way more than it ought to

Waiting for things in France involves confusing vocabulary.

train schedule sign
Sign announcing incoming RER B trains. Amazingly, I found a picture of the sign for my train on line, although you can tell that this is from a different stop by the fact that it has a time for a train headed to my station. Picture source: http://www.francetravelplanner.com/go/paris/trans/air/choose_train.html.

The last time I was in Paris, I tried to figure out the optimum time to leave my apartment in order to minimize my wait for the train to the little town where I work.  This requires complicated (at least for a humanities major like me) record-keeping in which I track the time that I leave the house, the time that the metro comes to the metro station by my apartment, the time that I get to the actual train station, and the time that my actual train shows up.

All of this involves a certain amount of time staring at electronic signs telling me the wait time for the next train, and that’s often where Zipf’s Law enters my day.  There are a few words with very similar appearances, but very different meanings, and I confuse them constantly.  They have so many related nouns, so many reflexive forms, and so many related colloquialisms that I’m going to start with just the verbs.  (Definitions from WordReference.com, with some editing.)

  • attendre: to wait, to wait for; to expect.
  • attenter à: to make an attempt on (to attack).
  • s’attendre à: to expect (definition from Phildange).
  • attenter à: to be a slur on something/one.
  • atteindre: to reach, to get to (a place); to achieve, to meet (a goal); to affect or harm (someone).
  • étendre: to stretch out; to spread out; to open out (definition from Phildange).
  • s’étendre: to lie down; to talk at length; to pervade, etc. (definition from Phildange).
  • éteindre: to extinguish, to put out (a fire, a cigarette); to turn off (a light, a machine).
  • s’eteindre: to die, to go out, to switch (oneself) off.
  • s’éteindre: to pass away.
  • s’entendre: to get along (with each other) (definition from Phildange).

Bottom line: leave the house at 07:55 and I get to work in an hour and a quarter, with very little of a wait at the train station–that’s important when it’s cold.  Leave the house at 08:00 and it’s a totally different story–over a 20-minute wait at the train station, and who knows how long it takes to get to work.


5 thoughts on “Waiting for the train confuses me way more than it ought to”

  1. And don’t forget “s’attendre à” = to expect .
    “étendre” = to stretch out OR to spread out OR to open out
    “s’étendre” = to lie down OR to talk at length OR to pervade etc .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And “s’entendre”, with a different meaning that “being heard . “Ils s’entendent” speaking of people means they get along well in general, or about some definite point, they come to an agreement .

    Liked by 1 person

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