Expressing timeliness (late, early, on time) - in general

Look at these sentences:

Je suis désolé d'être en retard
I'm sorry I'm late

Vous êtes vraiment en avance!
You are really early!

Je ne suis jamais à l'heure!
I am never on time!

 

Notice that to say that you are late/early/on time in French, you use the expressions:

(être) en retard

(être) en avance

(être) à l'heure 

See also Expressing timeliness (late, early) - precise

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Julie arrive en retard tous les jours.
Julie arrives late every day


Tu étais en retard ce matin!
You were late this morning!


La réunion a commencé en avance
The meeting started early


Je ne suis jamais à l'heure!
I am never on time!


Ne venez pas en avance, s'il-vous-plaît!
Don't come early, please!


Vous êtes vraiment en avance!
You are really early!


Stéphane est arrivé à l'heure à l'école
Stéphane arrived on time to school


Je suis désolé d'être en retard
I'm sorry I'm late


Nous voulons vraiment arriver à l'heure
We really want to arrive on time


Q&A

Brenda

Kwiziq community member

25 May 2018

1 reply

Whjat is wrong with saying "de bonne heure" for 'early'?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

26 May 2018

26/05/18

Hi Brenda,


There's nothing wrong about the expression 'de bonne heure' for early but it is used slightly differently.


The lesson refers to a specific time and you can be 'en avance'à l'heure , ou 'en retard'. So the train expected at 13 42 will be any of these.


You would use 'de bonne heure' when you mean 'tôt' and the sense of earliness is less precise in my opinion.


Nous sommes partis de bonne heure ce matin pour éviter la circulation. (We left early this morning to avoid the traffic.) 


Essaie de rentrer de bonne heure ce soir! (Try to come home early tonight !)


Hope this helps!

Sherry

Kwiziq community member

29 November 2017

2 replies

Are "à temps" and "à l'heure" not interchangeable?

Bonjour. I used the first one in a quiz to fill in the blank, and it was marked wrong: "Étais-tu ________ (à temps) pour ton rendez-vous? Were you on time for your appointment?" But à temps was used in another quiz: "Il court ________ (pour) arriver au travail à temps. He runs [in order] to get to work on time."

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

30 November 2017

30/11/17

Hi Sherry - that's a great question. The distinction between "à temps" and "à l'heure" is very much like the nuance between "in time" vs "on time" in English. So, depending on the context, they can be interchangeable, but if you want to get across something happening in advance of some deadline or event then use "à temps" (in time), whereas if you want to talk about something happening punctually with respect to a specific time then use "à l'heure" (on time). The wording in English is never going to be so clear cut, but it helps convey the nuances in the two meanings.

Hope that helps!

Sherry

Kwiziq community member

30 November 2017

30/11/17

It does help. Merci, Gruff!

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

2 replies

My brother arrived late this morning, tard or en retard?

If the brother arrives late in the morning as apposed to being late is it still en retard or can it be tard?

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

28/08/17

Noticed Nimn's question afer posting but still am not sure why it cannot be Mon frère est arrivé tard (as opposed to en retard) ce matin. He's not late for the appointment just late in the morning? Can tard not be seen as an adjective?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 August 2017

28/08/17

Bonjour Jennifer !

Yes I agree that in the absence of context, both tard and en retard could work in this sentence.

However, seen as we're testing specifically en retard here, I've therefore removed and updated this question to give it a clear context :)

Thank you very much for pointing this out !
Merci et à bientôt !

nim

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2017

1 reply

tard et retard

hello, what's the difference between etre en tard, and etre en retard

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

1 August 2017

1/08/17

Hi Nim - "etre en tard" doesn't exist.

'Tard' expresses the quality of lateness usually with with respect to time of the day or some other event, whereas the 'retard' means late in the sense of being behind a schedule, delayed or dropping behind.

Compare these French expressions with 'tard' with these French expressions with 'retard'.

Notice that 'tard' is an adjective, whereas the expression 'en retard' functions as adverb ('retard' on its own is a noun).

Hope that helps!

Advika

Kwiziq community member

22 June 2017

2 replies

Why is en used before retard and avance

Thank you very much

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

22 June 2017

22/06/17

Hi Advika - there's no logic to which prepositions are used in most cases I'm afraid. You just have to learn them by heart. Best wishes, Gruff

Advika

Kwiziq community member

23 June 2017

23/06/17

Thank you very much for you timing and help .

Advika

Kwiziq community member

22 June 2017

1 reply

Why is en used be

Ron

Kwiziq community member

24 June 2017

24/06/17

Bonjour Advika,

Could you please complete your question?

Merci,

William

Kwiziq community member

2 December 2016

1 reply

Can "de bonne heure" be used to express "early".

For a question the correct answer was "en advance". Tu es en avance aujourd'hui. Could one say Tu es de bonne heure aujourd'hui.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 December 2016

2/12/16

Bonjour William !

That's an interesting question: there is a nuance between these two expressions "de bonne heure" and "en avance".
"De bonne heure" means "early" in the sense of "at an early time of day",
whereas "en avance" means "early" as in "in relation to a specific given time".

Therefore, you use "de bonne heure" with verbs like "arriver", "partir", "se coucher", "se lever"...
but it sounds a bit weird with "être" as "to be early" implies the second case (i.e. given time).

However, it would work with "être là de bonne heure" (to be *there* early) as here both meanings are possible without a clear context.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Clarissa

Kwiziq community member

30 May 2016

1 reply

When is tôt used?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

31 May 2016

31/05/16

Bonjour Clarissa !


The word "tôt" means "early" as opposed to "tard" (late) in French, to indicate a time in the day, i.e. "early in the morning". 
e.g. "Je me suis levé tôt."    (I got up early.)
       "Oh là là, il est tôt !"     (Oh, it's early!)
       "Tu es arrivé plus tôt que prévu."   (You arrived earlier than expected.)


"En avance" and "en retard" indicate a relationship between those moments and a given time: you're early or late compared to that given time. 


I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

find your French level

Share the love!

Thinking...