Late “To” or Late “For?” Which Is Correct?

The prepositions “to” or “for” are often interchangeable in regards to discuss being late for an event, occasion, meeting or some other scheduled pursuit. It is not common to use “late to” in the present or future tenses.

Regardless, studying the differences between the prepositions will give you a better command of the English language. This will be particularly useful in referring to how tardy or belated you or someone else is.

Meaning of “To”

“To” is a word that means moving toward, until or going forth into something, someone or someplace. As an illustration, we can go “to” school, take a vacation “to” the island or give a present “to” our sister.

Meaning of “For”

“For” is a special word because it’s both a preposition and a conjunction. As a preposition, it indicates “for the sake of” or “in consideration of.” But, as a conjunction, it means “in consequence of the fact that.” Consider the following examples:


I bought this for you wanted a new watch.


I bought this watch for you.

People live in denial for their desire of plausible ignorance.

Using “To” and “For with “Late”

When using “late” as a quantifiable time, “to” and “for” are both acceptable prepositions you can use in exchange for one another. It is much more common to use “late for” for situations that are in progress. 

I am late for school this morning.

I am late to school this morning. (sounds awkward)

You are late to everything so often, I’ll bet you’ll be late for your own funeral!

You are late for everything so often, I’ll bet you’ll be late to your own funeral!

In British English “late for” is much more common than “late to”.

Special Circumstances

But, in the case of “for” it can also be a conjunction, which can also accompany discussions around being “late.” Therefore, if you use “for” in some instances, it may sound a little off although it’s grammatically acceptable.

Nadine is always late to the punch line of a joke.

Nadine is always late for the punch line of a joke.

When women are late for menstruation, it could indicate pregnancy.

When women are late to menstruation, it could indicate pregnancy.

Late for or to the party?

We usually use “late for the party”. You can use “late to the party” but it would only be common in the past tense.

I was late for the party.

I arrived late to the party.


Although you can exchange “for” and “to” in most instances, there are times when it won’t quite sound right. Whenever you’re in doubt, say it both ways to ensure you’re using them in the right context.