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

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


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!


Q&A Forum 11 questions, 17 answers

B2 writing exercise

Why was it an error when I used “à l’heure” in the writing exercise “My kids’ back to school” B2?

It corrected me with “à temps” (for everything to be ready on time)

Thanks

Tammy

Asked 3 weeks ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

Here is an explanation of the difference between à temps and à l'heure:

https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/questions/view/are-a-temps-and-a-l-heure-not-interchangeable

 

B2 writing exercise

Why was it an error when I used “à l’heure” in the writing exercise “My kids’ back to school” B2?

It corrected me with “à temps” (for everything to be ready on time)

Thanks

Tammy

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the lesson stipulates the use of être then the relevant expression but i don't see this in some examples. e.g. Ne venez pas en avance

or Nous voulons vraiment arriver.  Can someone clarify this for me.

Asked 4 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Gerry,

To be early = Être en avance

To be late = Être en retard 

To be on time = Être à l'heure

We have just changed the verbs and meanings-

Ne venez pas en avance! Don''t come early !

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

Hope this helps!

merci 

the lesson stipulates the use of être then the relevant expression but i don't see this in some examples. e.g. Ne venez pas en avance

or Nous voulons vraiment arriver.  Can someone clarify this for me.

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en avance means 'In advance' according to google translate. Am I missing someting?

Asked 5 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Okezie,

It depends on the context ...

This question was about how to say- late, early, on time. In this context you cannot say in advance.

En avance can actually mean: early, ahead of time, and in advance 

For instance, 

Nous prenons les paiements en avance = We take payments in advance

Les réservations doivent être faites en avance = Bookings have to be made in advance

Hope this helps!

en avance means 'In advance' according to google translate. Am I missing someting?

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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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!

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

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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."
Asked 1 year ago
GruffKwiziq language super star
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!
It does help. Merci, Gruff!

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."

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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?
Asked 1 year ago
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?
AurélieKwiziq language super star
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 !

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?

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NimA1

tard et retard

hello, what's the difference between etre en tard, and etre en retard
Asked 1 year ago
GruffKwiziq language super star
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!

tard et retard

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

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Why is en used before retard and avance

Thank you very much
Asked 2 years ago
GruffKwiziq language super star
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
Thank you very much for you timing and help .
RobinA2

Does this include the use of "de" in the example Je suis d'être en retard"?  I was wondering why there needs to be the "de" before the verb être.  Thank you. 

GruffKwiziq language super star

Hi Robin, I think you missed reading the word désolé in the example with 'de':

"Je suis désolé d'être en retard"

An alternative translation in English might be "I'm sorry about being late" where 'about' is playing a similar role to 'de' (but notice in French the infinitive, être, follows, whereas in English we follow with the present participle in this example). 

Why is en used before retard and avance

Thank you very much

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Why is en used be

Asked 2 years ago
RonC1
Bonjour Advika, Could you please complete your question? Merci,

Why is en used be

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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.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
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 !

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.

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When is tôt used?

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star

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 !

When is tôt used?

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