English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Consider this comment:

My doctor is awesome. He was running late with a previous patient so he sent a new doctor to run my follow up appointment.

Does "running late" here means he is going to be late, or he is going to take more time than usual? What does it precisely mean? Also, what does running an appointment mean when he said they sent a new doctor to run his follow up appointment? Does it mean to deal with?

share|improve this question
To be running late means to have overrun the allocated time (whether the allocation was strictly timetabled or just intended). To run an appointment sounds odd to me - I'd use 'handle' or 'take care of'. 'Run' does mean 'manage, conduct, perform...' (amongst many other things), but not all objects sit well with this verb. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 15 '13 at 23:28
@EdwinAshworth Hey I think this is a very good answer and deserves to be awarded. Can you please submit it as an answer? – Theo Sep 15 '13 at 23:40
Likewise. And to explain the use of "run", it fits perfectly fine considering the doctor will be operating on Theo, and thus be "running the job". Maybe a little unusual, but nothing at all wrong with the way he used the term. – Zibbobz Sep 16 '13 at 13:18
up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Running late" is an idiomatic phrase that means, essentially, "late" or "being late," with the caveat that "being late" is more a translation than a phrase that people use. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

  • "s. to run late : to be behind schedule. Similarly to run early, on time, etc."

For your example, you could write "He was late so he sent a new doctor to run my follow up appointment." What's different about that way of saying it is that "running late" conveys information about why the doctor was late. He had a prior appointment and it took longer than expected. Perhaps it would be even better to write "He was taking longer than expected with a previous patient so he sent a new doctor to run my follow up appointment."

If you tell someone you are "running late" there are a few important connotations. First, it is probably in reference to a meeting or scheduled appointment. Second, you could already be late or simply anticipating that you will be late. That would depend on the time the message is conveyed relative to the appointment or scheduled time.

You are correct that "to run" the follow up appointment means approximately "to deal with." However, just know that at least in the United States, you don't normally "run" an appointment. It's understood, but not common. You might run a meeting but usually you "have" an appointment. I would have written it as "he sent a new doctor to meet with me for my follow up appointment.

I would also point you to a discussion on WordReference.com about this phrase.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.