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“If I am getting late”

I guess that grammatically it's correct, but my friend didn't understand what it meant, so I had to rephrase it. He also said that the correct way to ask was "Is it getting late for you?" or something similar.

Can someone please explain?

EDIT: Context: It was 8 p.m., and I meant to ask whether it was getting late for him to go to bed, because I know he generally goes to bed at about 9 p.m.

marked as duplicate by Cerberus, Robusto, StoneyB, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, MetaEd Jan 23 '13 at 5:40

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  • You can substitute delayed for late: Are you getting delayed? In other words are you falling behind your schedule. I personally don't like are you getting late as it is ambiguous, there are better ways of expressing falling behind or becoming delayed than are you getting late. – spiceyokooko Jan 23 '13 at 0:38
  • It's correct if you mean late as in the late Dentarthurdent. – MetaEd Jan 23 '13 at 0:49
  • 3
    Your friend is quite right. In the context you describe, "Is it getting late for you?" is the correct phrasing. As @spiceyokooko says, “Are you getting late?” is non-standard phrasing for asking whether someone is in danger of being late for something "formally" scheduled, which would not ordinarily include things like going to bed. – FumbleFingers Jan 23 '13 at 3:13
  • @Cerberus: Yes, it's a duplicate, but the answers to that original were no better than the answers to this one. Maybe all this stuff should be combined and then the low-quality nonsense selectively deleted. – user21497 Jan 23 '13 at 4:20

Late in

Is it getting late for you?

refers to the day approaching its end, while late in

*Are you getting late?

refers to you possibly arriving after the expected time, though this sounds awkward and the standard expression is

Are you running late?

in the latter case.

  • 1
    For your second case I'd probably say, "Are you getting in late?" Are you getting late doesn't parse for me, unless it was in context. Two people standing in line to get tickets when there are two shows- a late show and an early show: "Are you getting late? No, I'm getting early, I have to be home by 10:00" – Jim Jan 23 '13 at 0:24

Your friend didn't understand what it meant because it's not idiomatic English, it's not natural native-speaker English, and it's flat-out wrong. It has to be something like "Is it getting late for you?" or "Isn't it getting late for you to be up and about instead of preparing for bed?" The semantics of those two sentences are quite different from the semantics of the original.

It's nonsense to claim that the sentence "Are you getting late?" is grammatical, simply because it doesn't work semantically. We ignore the ungrammaticality of idiomatic solecisms simply because they are semantically clear: we know what they mean because we use them all the time, and meaning is more important than grammar. We can safely ignore the grammatical status of a piece of semantic nonsense, because whether it's grammatical is irrelevant, unless Noam Chomsky's trying to make a linguistic point about colorless green ideas sleeping furiously.

To claim that "Are you getting late?" may refer to someone about to be late to an appointment or to some woman whose menstrual period hasn't begun at the normal and expected time is stretching the language beyond the breaking point, I'm afraid. Although we may say that pregnancy, lateness, uniqueness, and death are technically ungradable but de facto gradable (because we do grade them when we speak), the fact is that there's a clear line, in this case, between being late and not late: 9 p.m. is the listener's normal bedtime.


You're right: it's okay, grammatically. You should rephrase it to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding, though, as what you said is most easily interpreted as "Are you becoming late [to an event]?" which is itself an awkward question. If you're talking about late as in night time, you could instead ask if the other person is tired or "Is it getting late where you are?" It all depends on the context.

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