The English given is: I almost got there late. Why isn't it J'ai failli y arriver en retard?
Bonjour Chris et Maarten !
Here, the "difficulty" comes from the fact that you can translate "arriver" by "to get there" in English, i.e. the "there" is included in the meaning of "arriver".
As Maarten mentioned, unlike "aller", "arriver" is therefore usually used on its own.
But here's an extra layer: though "j'ai failli y arriver en retard" is grammatically correct, it creates an extra ambiguity in French, when you consider the expression "arriver à [faire]" = "to manage to [do]"."Y arriver" is used (almost, though I can't really think of an example) exclusively in that context (j'y suis arrivé = I made it, I managed), which makes the previous sentence very awkward to native ears :)
The most colloquial therefore remains to use "arriver" on its own.
I hope that's helpful.
Bonne journée à tous les deux !
Although translated as 'got there' it is probably better thought of in this instance as 'arrived' - and as 'I almost arrived late'.
Unlike 'aller', arriver doesn't always need a destination specified.
However, there is nothing grammatically wrong with "J'ai failli y arriver en retard", just as in English it could also be "I almost arrived there late".
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