Learn Vocabulary


how do you say late


First off, this word is not what you think.

Second, there are more than one ways to express tardiness in French.

1. Tard /tar/

Means: late

Is Opposed To: tôt /tow/ (early)

Is Used With:  Il est / Il se fait / trop /  sur le /  a verb.


Il est tard.
It’s late.

Il se fait tard. Rentrons.
It’s getting late. Let’s go home.

Trop tard! Je suis arrivé en premier.
Too late! I was there first.

Ils se sont mariés sur le tard.
They got married late in life.

Nous sommes rentrés tard dans la nuit.
We came home late at night.

Nous sommes rentrés tard hier soir.
We came home late last night. 

What It Does Not Mean: idiot, lowly dou…. The way to say that in French would be:

abruti /ah brü tee/

abruti fini /ah brü tee fee knee/

sous-merde* /soo maire duh/ *(offensive. Literally, “lower than sh…”)

2. Plus tard /plü tar/

Means: later

Is Opposed To: plus tôt (earlier)

Is Used With: À / any verb


Je ferai ça plus tard.
I’ll do it later.

À plus tard!
See you later!

What You Should Not Pronounce: The final “s” in plus.  Although “À plus tard/ah plü tar/ is shorten into “À +/ah plüss/ in SMS language.

3. Retard /ruhtar/

Means: lateness, delay

Is Opposed To: empressement /om press mon/ (eagerness)

Is Used With:  un, des / le, les / mon, ton son…/ ce, ces / du / sans /aucun


Un fâcheux retard.
An unfortunate delay.

Désolé pour le retard.
Sorry for the delay.

Ton retard me cause du souci.
You being late is getting me in trouble.
Your delay is causing me concern.

Ces retards sont inacceptables!
These delays are unacceptable!

Nous aurons du retard.
We’ll be delayed.

Nous allons prendre du retard.
We’ll be late.

Il ne tolère aucun retard
He suffers no delay.

What It Does Not Mean:

a) Retard. The way to say that in French would be demeuré* /duh muh ray/ (*offensive)
Regarding this word, a big company recently made a big blunder on one of its products in bilingual Canada.

b) To defer: that would be remettre à plus tard /rmet rah plü tar/

c) Fire retardant is ignifuge /ee knee fü juh/ in case you were wondering.

4. En retard /on ruh tar/

Means: (I’m/ You’re/ it’s…) late

Is Opposed To: en avance /on a vons/ ( it’s early)

Is Used With: verbs / especially être


Tu es en retard.
You’re late.

Le paquet est arrivé en retard.
The package arrived late.

What It Does Not Mean: Used on its own, it doesn’t quite mean I am late” yet: you must put the verb être in front of it for it to get the full meaning. For example, “j’en retard” doesn’t work. Say “Je suis en retard” /shwee on r-tar/ instead. 


So, now that you are a pro…

how do you say sorry


Oui, c’est ça!

Excusez-moi, je suis en retard.
/ex q zay mwah shwee on ruh tar/


This post was inspired by a lovely drawing from Duanra :



patron: boss

réveil: alarm clock

sonné: rang

par contre: however

portière: car door

voulait: wanted

se fermer: close itself


© Ouicestca 2013, tous droits réservés.

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