In the English-speaking world being punctual (arriving at a business meeting, appointment etc... on time) is very important. If you don't, the people you are going meet will not be very happy.

But if you are late to something, there are somethings that you can say to make the situation better.

First of all, if you know you are going to be more than 5 minutes late, it is essential that you telephone the people to tell them, explain why and apologise. When you arrive, you need to apologise and explain why again.

In this online exercise you will learn (by reading a text and then doing a quiz) the vocabulary you can use to do this (how to apologise, how to explain why you are late) and other words and phrases that are connected to lateness. This vocabulary can be used in both business and non-business situations.

This vocabulary can be used in both business and non-business situations.

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on business meeting vocabulary


Exercise: Being late to a meeting

Read the below conversation bewteen a person late to a business meeting and the Chair (person in charge) of the meeting. The first part is a telephone call and the second is when the person has arrived at the business meeting.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Telephone Call

John:'Hello, John Smith speaking.'

Ray: 'Hi John, it's Ray Carver. I'm afraid that I'm going to be late for the meeting.'

John:'Ok, no problem.'

Ray:'Sorry, I'm stuck in traffic on the M30. I've been here for 30 minutes. I'm not sure if there's been an accident or if there are roadworks up ahead.'

John:'Don't worry. Simon Jenkins is also running late. His flight has been delayed by 45 minutes. Do you know when you'll arrive?'

Ray:'To be honest, it's hard to say. As I said, I've been in the traffic jam for 30 minutes and the traffic is still crawling. Maybe 15 minutes late.'

John:'Ok, if you're going to be any later let me know.'

Ray:'Ok, will do. See you later.'


Arriving at the Meeting

Ray:'Sorry I'm late. The traffic was terrible. I hope I have not missed anything.'

John:'No you haven't Ray, we started 5 minutes ago. Take a seat.'




Quiz: How to apologize for being late

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. Another way to say 'tell me', is    

         

Let me know:
(verbal phrase) The phrase is neutral and has the meaning of tell/inform someone about something, e.g. 'when you hear something, let me know'. It is never used in the past, where 'to tell' or 'to inform' replace it. In Spanish: "avisar/contar".

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Let me know:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. A way to describe how slowly you are travelling on a road, is    

         

Crawling:
(adjective) In a traffic jam, cars sometimes advance very slowly. We use 'crawling' to describe this, e.g. 'the traffic is crawling'. It comes from the verb 'to crawl', meaning to move on your hands and knees. In Spanish: "avanzar lentamente".

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Crawling:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. A normal way to apologise for being late, is    

         

Sorry I'm late:
(phrase) 'Sorry' is used as a general apology. In Spanish: "siento llegar tarde".

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Sorry I'm late:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. A way to say that you are in a traffic jam, is    

         

Stuck in traffic:
(verbal phrase) The infinitive is 'to be stuck in traffic'. A very common phrase to use when you are in a traffic jam. In Spanish: "estoy en un atasco".

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Stuck in traffic:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. A way to ask if something has been done or said without you, is    

         

I have not missed anything:
(phrase) This is a polite phrase to use after apologizing for being late. In this context it is always used with "I hope" before the phrase. In Spanish: "no me he perdido mucho".

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I have not missed anything:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. A different way of saying 'I'm not sure', is    

         

It's hard to say:
(phrase) It is used when answering a question. It has the same meaning as 'it's difficult to say'. In Spanish: "es dificil decir".

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It's hard to say:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. A formal way to introduce bad news to someone, is    

         

I'm afraid that:
(verbal phrase) 'I'm afraid that' is not an apology, but a very polite and formal way to introduce bad news. Similar to the less formal 'I`m sorry to say that'. In Spanish: "me temo que".

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I'm afraid that:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. When people are repairing the road, there are    

         

Roadworks:
(noun) A very common term and means roads are being repaired. It is a very common cause of delays and traffic jams. In Spanish: "obras".

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Roadworks:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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9. When something takes place or leaves later than planned, it is    

         

Delayed:
(adjective) This can refer to public transport, projects, meetings etc... In Spanish: "retrasarse".

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Delayed:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10. A different way to say that something or somebody is late, is    

         

Running late:
(verbal phrase) The infinitive is 'to run late'. It is a neutral expression. It can be used for both people and things, e.g. 'Roger is running late at the moment, he should be here in 15 minutes'. In Spanish: "llevar retraso.

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Running late:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Practice

Now that you understand the being late vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences in English with the new words/phrases.