run late

Akihiro

Member
Japanese
When I was watching a TV drama, I heard the phrase 'I'm running a littel late.'.
But the one who said that didin't seem to be 'running'...
I think it's a fixed expression, but is it different from the prase 'I'm a little late'?
 
  • -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    Running late is a common expression. It's not precisely the same as I'm late.
    In my opinion, I'm late means that it is now 9:01AM and you were supposed to be at work at 9:00AM. You're late.
    I'm running late means it is now 8:30AM and you're just getting out of bed (but you're supposed to be at work at 9:00AM). You're running late but you're not late yet, because the time at which you are supposed to be at work has not yet passed, even though it is inevitable that you will not be there on time.

    It doesn't mean the person is physically running (although if they're going to be late, they might be!). ;)
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I agree with -mack-'s very good explanation.

    Another way to say "to run late", for me, is "to be behind schedule".
     

    Akihiro

    Member
    Japanese
    Thanks for your clear answer. I undertand it very well. English and Japanese are VERY different in terms of grammmar and pronunciations. So it's very challenging to study English for me. Thanks again.
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    Running late is a common expression. It's not precisely the same as I'm late.
    In my opinion, I'm late means that it is now 9:01AM and you were supposed to be at work at 9:00AM. You're late.
    I'm running late means it is now 8:30AM and you're just getting out of bed (but you're supposed to be at work at 9:00AM). You're running late but you're not late yet, because the time at which you are supposed to be at work has not yet passed, even though it is inevitable that you will not be there on time.

    It doesn't mean the person is physically running (although if they're going to be late, they might be!). ;)

    Your comment is pretty clear.

    I would like you to give an explanation about the same used in the past tenses, though I've got the rough idea of if.

    I was running late.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Running late is a common expression. It's not precisely the same as I'm late.
    In my opinion, I'm late means that it is now 9:01AM and you were supposed to be at work at 9:00AM. You're late.
    I'm running late means it is now 8:30AM and you're just getting out of bed (but you're supposed to be at work at 9:00AM). You're running late but you're not late yet, because the time at which you are supposed to be at work has not yet passed, even though it is inevitable that you will not be there on time.

    I know "I'm running late." is not the same as "I'm late." but isn't it the same as "I'll be late"? Say I'm on my way to work but I come across a car accident and it looks like I will be or might be late. It's 8:45 now and I'm supposed to be at work at 9. I'm calling a co-worker.

    Hi, I'm running late. There was a car accident.
    Hi, I'll be late. There was a car accident.



    Or does the choice matter depening on whether I know I'll be late or I think I might be late. Could you please share your thoughts?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    I'm going to be late, because there's [= there has] been a car accident. :tick:
    1. "Running" doesn't work here, because being delayed by a car accident was not part of your expected course of events (or schedule) leading up to arriving at work. "Running late" would be ok if you left home later then you should have done to arrive on time, but not if the delay is caused by something unforeseen.
    2. Since the accident is the direct cause of your present situation (being late), the present perfect is natural (and almost mandatory) here.
    3. Going to be is similarly also mandatory here ("all the signs are that ...")

    There's [= there has] been a car accident so I'm going to be late = better word order. Something has happened (car accident) and the result is (I'm going to be late).
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So when do I naturally say "I'm running late."? Like being still at home? Does this work?

    A: Mum, can you show me how to.....?
    B: Sorry, I'm runnig late for work. I'll show you tonight. All right?

    Does that mean she should have left by now or be leaving right now and she's still not ready?
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how about the past tense? Do these two work and mean the same? Say the husband is calling his wife a bit later as the child complained to him. Both the husband and the wife are at work now.

    A: Ashley complained you didn't show her to use the toaster. Will you ever find time for her?
    B: Sorry. I was late for work. But I promised to do it tonight.
    B: Sorry. I was running late for work. But I promised to do it tonight.


    I guess in the first reply she was already late, that is, she was supposed to be at work at 9 and it was say 9:05.
    Whereas in the second reply, it was say 8:45 but she knew 15 minutes would not be enough to get to work. Am I right?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    Both B and B are correct, with no difference in meaning here.
    [show her how to use ...]

    Your conclusion isn't necessarily correct. She could be "late" or "running late" even if it was before the time she should have arrived at work. "Running late" compares my present situation to my expected or known schedule, but it's not obligatory to say "running". If you do choose to say it, you're comparing it with a known or expected schedule.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how about a habitual scenario? I guess they are both fine, but do they mean the same thing?

    Is it true that you are late for work at least twice a week?
    Is it true that you run late for work at least twice a week?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    The second one is unlikely and nigh on [= almost] impossible in any kind of normal context. It would suggest that the person deliberately plans to run or be late as part of their schedule. The focus of the question is that the person is late, not that they plan or schedule to be late.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    No difference here. The "or" is just another way you can say it. No-one (in normal circumstances) plans to be late or be behind schedule [= run late]. A schedule is designed to achieve a result at a given time, and the various steps in that schedule need to be completed at times known to the speaker. The speaker is running late or is late if they know that at any given moment, a step in that overall schedule hasn't been completed in time to meet the deadline of the overall scheduie.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Saying "Not now, I'm running late for work", is the person already late or can they have very little time until the work starts so most probably they are going to be late?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    Out of context, it means they think they're probably going to be late (because they know that they're behind schedule). The whole point about "running late" is that there is a known schedule against which they're comparing their present progress.
    If the person knows they are already late, it doesn't make sense to say they're "running late", because the schedule is no longer relevant, it can't be met.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So I don't really understand why they mean something different in the present and the same thing in the past.

    I'm running late. ( I might be late as I'm behind schedule, eg, in my preparations for work.)
    I'm late. (I'm already late.)

    I would have thought the difference is the same.
    I was running late. (I was afraid I might be late as I was behind schedule in my preparations for work.)
    I was late. ( I was late.)
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    When you say "I'm late" in the present, it doesn't mean you've already missed the target time, as I said in #17. It means the same as "I'm running late", "I'm behind schedule".
    The speaker is running late or is late if they know that at any given moment, a step in that overall schedule hasn't been completed in time to meet the deadline of the overall scheduie.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'm running late. ( I might be late as I'm behind schedule, eg, in my preparations for work.)
    I'm late. (I'm already late.)
    I have to leave at 8. I eat breakfast then brush my teeth at 7:45. This morning, I spilled my breakfast on the floor and spent 5 minutes cleaning it up. I start brushing my teeth at 7:50. I am running late because I need to brush my teeth at 7:45 and have 15 minutes worth of things to do after that. I am not late because it's not 8 yet. At 8:01, I will be late and I will still be running late because I still have 4 minutes worth of things to do.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Would you take these two replies to mean the same thing?

    A: What's your biggest pet peeve?
    B: Running late.
    B: Being late.

    Well, how I understand them is that the former means someone hates being behind schedule so as not to be late, like eating breakfast fast, then rushing to brush their teeth, etc. In other words they might not really be late for something. While the latter would mean someone hates it when they are actually late for something and, say, feel embarrassed.

    Does my interpretation make sense?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If you are running late, you could potentially do something to make up some time and arrive on time.
    Running late and actually being late are not the same.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Say you hear this narrative.

    I was in an elevator, running late for a meeting, and there was this eldery woman asking me to help her carry her suitcase.

    It would mean that person was not late yet, but could or could not be. I mean if they tried to make up some time, they could have still arrived on time, right?


    If they were actually late, they could say this, right?
    I was in an elevator, already late for a meeting, and there was this eldery woman asking me to help her carry her suitcase.
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If it is before the appointed time and you haven't arrived yet and you are behind schedule, you are running late but you are not late.
    If it is past the appointed time and you haven't arrived yet and you are behind schedule (obviously), you are running late and you are late,
    If you have arrived, you were either late or on time or early, You may or may not have been running late up to the time of your arrival.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    To me, "I'm running late" means "I'm going to be late." It doesn't mean "I may be late."

    For the "I may be late" scenario, I might say "I'm cutting it close."

    I have a meeting at 5:00. It's 4:45. I'm on a bus and scheduled arrival is 5:05. I'm running late.
    I have a meeting at 5:00. It's 4:45. I'm on a bus and scheduled arrival is 4:55. I'm cutting it close.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    To me, "I'm running late" means "I'm going to be late." It doesn't mean "I may be late."

    But possibly Tom will manage to arrive on time in the first example, while in the second he'll for sure be late. Am I wrong?

    Tom called. He's running late, so we'll start without him.
    Tom called. He's going to be late, so we'll start without him.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    But possibly Tom will manage to arrive on time in the first example, while in the second he'll for sure be late. Am I wrong?

    Tom called. He's running late, so we'll start without him.
    Tom called. He's going to be late, so we'll start without him.
    If there's a possibility he might arrive on time, Tom is more likely to say "I might be late" rather than "I'm running late". The distinction depends on how that conversation went.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    But possibly Tom will manage to arrive on time in the first example, while in the second he'll for sure be late. Am I wrong?

    Tom called. He's running late, so we'll start without him.
    Tom called. He's going to be late, so we'll start without him.
    To me, these are two different ways of saying the same thing.

    "He's running late" means "According to all reasonable estimates, he will be late."
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Would you take these two replies to mean the same thing?

    A: What's your biggest pet peeve?
    B1: Running late.
    B2: Being late.
    B1: The experience of being in a situation where they are on their way to something or getting ready for something and they're going to be late.

    B2: The experience of actually arriving or starting something late.

    Well, how I understand them is that the former means someone hates being behind schedule so as not to be late, like eating breakfast fast, then rushing to brush their teeth, etc. In other words they might not really be late for something. While the latter would mean someone hates it when they are actually late for something and, say, feel embarrassed.
    No. They're just different points in the sequence of events.

    X -------- (running late) -------- Y (being late)

    Y is the point of arrival or starting.
    B1 refers the period between X and Y (during which the person is "running late").
    B2 refers to Y (the point of arrival/starting)
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Out of context, it means they think they're probably going to be late (because they know that they're behind schedule). The whole point about "running late" is that there is a known schedule against which they're comparing their present progress.
    I think that that is a good description of what "running late" implies.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You can be running late at 7 am if you have to be somewhere at 9 am and it normally takes you at least two hours to get there. As said above, it's measured against expectations of what the final outcome will be based on a normal situation.

    If every time in the past that you left at 6:30 to go there you always arrived calmly and with time to spare and every time you left closer to 7 you either barely got there on time with great stress or were outright late, then you come to the conclusion that you need to leave by 6:30. That's your target based on experience. So you know if it's very close to 7 o'clock and you haven't left your house yet that there is a good possibility you won't make it by 9. With a two hour drive, it's conceivable that traffic could vary and if the traffic is not bad maybe you will arrive before 9. But the likelihood is that you won't.

    Either way, if you leave your house at 6:30 or 7:15, you are not late. You won't be late until 9 o'clock. But in the second case you are running late because it's predictable that you will arrive later than you want to if you leave later than is normal. It's all about expectations.
     
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