What do you normally say when you arrive late to a meeting or an appointment ?
- SORRY FOR THE LATE.
- SORRY FOR BEING LATE
- SORRY TO BE IN LATE.
- SORRY FOR THE DELAY.
I often hear non-native speakers use the above phrases, but only one of them is actually correct: SORRY FOR BEING LATE.
Let me explain why, “late” is an adjective, it is not a noun and it is not a verb. So we need to use it with the verb “to be” to indicate an action: to be + adjective = to be late/happy/clever/hungry/etc.
When apologizing, we use one of the following forms:
I apologise/am sorry FOR
+ noun – Sorry for the misunderstanding / I apologize for the mistake.
+ verb in gerund – Sorry for disturbing you. / I apologise for bothering you.
SORRY FOR BEING LATE
+ verb in infinitive – Sorry to disturb you / Sorry to inconvenience you.
SORRY TO BE LATE
So the correct phrase is either SORRY FOR BEING LATE or SORRY TO BE LATE (used less frequently).
Now, what’s wrong with the sentence SORRY FOR THE DELAY ?
Grammatically there is nothing wrong with it as “delay” can be used both as a noun and as a verb. But it is normally used in a different context to refer to scheduled/planned activities and indicates a change in the original plan or intention.
e.g. The flight was delayed due to bad weather conditions.
The TV programs are on a 10 minute delay.
There is no delay in the shipment, so you should get it on time.
Here is another expression with “late”: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
And of course IT IS NEVER LATE to learn something new. I hope this post helped you do that.
p.s. this post was created by Astrid who is such a grammar buff.