Mastering the Phrase: How to Say Late in Japanese

Japanese is a fascinating language with a rich culture and history. If you are learning Japanese, you may find yourself in situations where you need to express lateness. In this section, we will explore different ways to say “late” in Japanese and how to express lateness using Japanese phrases. So, let’s get started!

First, let’s look at the Japanese word for “late.” The word for “late” in Japanese is “chikoku” (遅刻). This is a useful word to know when expressing lateness. However, there are other phrases you can use that are more specific and convey a deeper meaning.

When it comes to expressing lateness in Japanese, there are many phrases that can be used depending on the situation. In this section, we will cover basic phrases to express being late in Japanese, including the word for “late” itself and common phrases used to apologize and explain lateness.

By the end of this section, you’ll have a better understanding of how to say late in Japanese, as well as how to express lateness in a variety of situations using Japanese phrases.

So, if you’re ready to learn how to express lateness in Japanese, let’s get started!

Understanding the Japanese Concept of Lateness

Before delving into specific phrases for expressing lateness in Japanese, it’s important to understand the Japanese perspective on punctuality and tardiness. In Japanese culture, being on time is highly valued and is considered a sign of respect for others. Therefore, Japanese people are generally known for being punctual and arriving at their appointments on time.

When it comes to expressing lateness in the Japanese language, there are various vocabulary terms and phrases to use depending on the situation and level of formality. For example, the Japanese word for “late” is “okurete” (遅れて) or “chikoku shita” (遅刻した), which can be used in both formal and informal settings.

However, in more formal situations, it’s important to use respectful language and expressions to show deference to the other person. For instance, using the honorific prefix “o” (お) before “chikoku shita” can make the phrase more polite and respectful: “o-chikoku shita” (お遅刻しました). Additionally, adding an apologetic phrase such as “moshiwake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません) can further show sincerity and regret.

Overall, understanding the Japanese concept of punctuality and the associated vocabulary for expressing lateness is crucial for effective communication and showing respect in Japanese culture.

Basic Phrases for Being Late in Japanese

Learning how to say “late” and other related phrases in Japanese is essential for effective communication. Here are some basic phrases that you can use to express being late in Japanese:

Japanese Reading English
遅刻する chikoku suru to be late
遅れます okuremasu I’m running late
時間に遅れました jikan ni okuremashita I’m sorry I’m late

In addition to these phrases, there are other useful words and expressions related to being late that you should know:

Japanese Reading English
遅刻 chikoku lateness
遅れ okure delay
遅刻魔 chikokuma chronically late person
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By familiarizing yourself with these words and phrases, you can express being late in a clear and concise manner, making it easier for others to understand and accommodate your situation.

Expressing Lateness in Formal Situations

In formal situations, such as business meetings or appointments, it is crucial to follow specific phrases and etiquette when expressing lateness in Japanese. Not doing so may be considered disrespectful or rude.

The most common phrase to express lateness in a formal situation is chikoku shita, which translates to “I am late.” However, it is essential to follow up with a proper apology and explanation for the delay.

Phrase Translation
Mō sukoshi o okure shita no de shitsurei shimasu Sorry for being a little late
Tashikani tsugi no shukkō made mō sukoshi jikan ga kakarimasu ga, goyoyaku ni okoshite itadakemasu ka? I might take a little longer than expected to arrive, would it be possible to reschedule?

Another common phrase used to apologize for lateness in formal situations is shitsurei shimasu, which translates to “I am sorry for the rudeness.” This phrase can be used after expressing the reason for the delay.

It is also essential to ensure that you inform the other party of your estimated time of arrival by using the phrase taikin jikan, which means “estimated time of arrival.” For example, Taikin jikan wa nanji gurai desu ka? translates to “What’s your estimated time of arrival?”

By following these phrases and etiquette, you can effectively express lateness in a formal situation in Japanese.

Informal Ways to Apologize for Being Late in Japanese

If you’re meeting with friends or attending a social event, there are different ways to apologize for being late in Japanese. Here are some common phrases:

Japanese Romaji English Translation
ごめんなさい、遅れました。 Gomen nasai, okuremashita. Sorry, I’m late.
すみません、遅れました。 Sumimasen, okuremashita. Excuse me, I’m late.
ちょっと遅れてごめん。 Chotto okurete gomen. Sorry for being a little late.

Remember to bow or nod your head to show respect and sincerity when apologizing.

Another way to express being late in a more informal context is to use the word “osoi,” which means “slow” or “late.” Here are some phrases:

Japanese Romaji English Translation
おそくなってごめんね。 Osoku natte gomen ne. Sorry for being late.
ちょっと遅くなってごめんね。 Chotto osokunatte gomen ne. Sorry for being a little late.

Using these informal phrases can help you show your sincerity and apologize for being late in a friendly way.

Common Excuses for Lateness in Japanese

While it’s important to apologize for being late, sometimes it’s necessary to provide an excuse for your tardiness. Here are some common excuses used in Japanese:

Japanese Translation Usage
電車が遅れました。 The train was delayed. Used when transportation is the reason for your lateness.
道が混んでいました。 The road was congested. Used when traffic is the reason for your lateness.
急用がありました。 There was an urgent matter. Used when you had an unexpected event or emergency.
アラームを設定していなかった。 I didn’t set my alarm. Used when oversleeping is the reason for your lateness.
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When using these excuses, be sure to apologize as well as provide the reason for your lateness. For example, you could say:


Translated to: “I’m sorry, the train was delayed.”

Remember to use polite language when apologizing in formal situations, and casual language in informal situations.

Practical Examples of Saying “I am Late” in Japanese

Now that you have learned some basic phrases for expressing lateness in Japanese, it’s time to put them into practice. Here are a few practical examples of saying “I am late” in Japanese:

Example 1: Work Meeting

If you are running late for a work meeting, it’s important to express your lateness in a formal and polite way. You can say:

「大変申し訳ございません。会議に遅れてしまいました。」(Taihen moushi wake gozaimasen. Kaigi ni okurete shimaimashita.)

This translates to: “I am terribly sorry. I am late for the meeting.”

Example 2: Dinner with Friends

When meeting with friends in a more casual setting, you can use a less formal phrase like:

「遅れてごめんね。」(Okurete gomen ne.)

which means “Sorry for being late.”

Example 3: Appointment with a Doctor

If you have a scheduled appointment with a doctor and you are running late, you can say:

「すみません、予約の時間に遅れてしまいました。」(Sumimasen, yoyaku no jikan ni okurete shimaimashita.)

Which translates to “I am sorry, I am late for my appointment.”

Example 4: Meeting a Teacher

When meeting with a teacher, you can use a formal and polite phrase such as:

「お待たせしてしまって、申し訳ございません。」(Omawase shite shimatte, moushi wake gozaimasen.)

Which means “I apologize for keeping you waiting.”

Whether you are in a formal or casual setting, it’s important to express your lateness in a polite and respectful way. Use these phrases as a starting point to communicate effectively in Japanese.


Q: What are some common ways to apologize for being late in Japanese?

A: Some common phrases to apologize for being late in Japanese include “Sumimasen, chotto osoi desu” (Excuse me, I am a little late) and “Gomen nasai, chikoku shimashita” (I’m sorry, I’m late).

Q: How do you say “late” in Japanese?

A: The word for “late” in Japanese is “osoi”.

Q: Are there different phrases for expressing lateness in formal and informal situations?

A: Yes, in formal situations it is more appropriate to use phrases such as “Chotto okurete sumimasen” (Sorry for being a little late) while in informal settings, phrases like “Chikoku shite gomen” (Sorry for being late) are commonly used.

Q: What are some common excuses for lateness in Japanese?

A: Common excuses for lateness in Japanese include “densha no jiko” (train accident), “juuden ga kiete shimaimashita” (power outage), and “jiko ga arimashita” (I had an accident).

Q: Can you provide examples of how to say “I am late” in Japanese in different everyday scenarios?

A: Sure! For example, if you are in a meeting, you can say “Shitsurei shimasu, chikoku shimashita” (Excuse me, I am late). If you are meeting a friend, you can say “Osoi gomen!” (Sorry for being late!).

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