In Lithuanian language there is a proverb that translated word-for-word would say "The train does not wait for the shitting ones."

While sounding somewhat rude, it is perfect for expressing: "You are too late, and that's your own fault."

Is there any proverb in English that could convey the same idea?

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    I live in the U.S. and never had the pleasure of hearing this Lithuanian proverb before. Thank you! I have happily added it to my vocabulary. "The train does not wait for the shitting ones." Love it. – Headblender Nov 15 at 20:46
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    Tangentially related: Gorbatchev's famous "Those who are late will be castigated by life itself" ("Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben"), aimed at Honecker. – Peter A. Schneider Nov 16 at 1:07
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    A word or phrase request can easily attract a long list of answers when it’s too subjective – more of a poll or request for ideas. Unfortunately neither are a good fit for the Stack Exchange model. A Stack Exchange question is objective and specific enough that it has a clearly “right” answer. See: “Real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions”, “Single word requests, crosswords, and the fight against mediocrity”. – MetaEd Nov 18 at 22:20
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    If possible, add details of research you’ve done, especially solutions you’ve already rejected, and why. If this is not possible because you really do have a subjective question, a welcoming place to ask for advice is our English Language & Usage Chat. – MetaEd Nov 18 at 22:20
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    @Bobble Doesn't that usually mean something akin to 'being unprepared for a situation'? If so, it has nothing to do with what OP said. – Suthek Nov 22 at 10:23

11 Answers 11

up vote 147 down vote accepted

More succintly, and less formally, there is also "You snooze, you lose!"

(idiomatic) If you are not alert and attentive, you will not be successful.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/you_snooze_you_lose

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    Ah, this could be it! While it looks quite different, I think the idea behind is basically the same. – april Nov 15 at 9:10
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    Honestly, I like this one MUST better than the Lithuanian one. Sometimes nature calls and then does not cooperate with a speedy exit, and it's not your fault that you missed the train because of this. Snoozing, on the other hand, implies something deliberate that is your fault, and at least to me this form of the word omits sleep disorders beyond your control. – Michael Nov 16 at 22:29

Time and tide wait for no man, is an English proverb with a similar meaning.

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    Obligatory XKCD: xkcd.com/1704 – justhalf Nov 14 at 18:16
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    I find this quite appropriate, maybe the closest in meaning, maybe just a little less common than some of the other suggestion, thanks! – april Nov 15 at 9:08
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    @justhalf It's really not obligatory. You could just ... not post xkcd links. It's not even a funny comic... – only_pro Nov 16 at 18:22
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    XKCD adds value to everything. (46 upvoters agree) – Yvonne Aburrow Nov 16 at 18:52
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    I doubt that I have seen 200 in total, so you might be right. I only have time to look at XKCD when I am ... xkcd.com/303 – Mawg Nov 21 at 15:29

I can think of two that might be appropriate.

Though it doesn't necessarily deal directly with tardiness, there is, "You've made your bed. Now lie in it." According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, it means:

said to someone who must accept the unpleasant results of something they have done

Also, there is, "That ship has sailed." The website UsingEnglish.com defines that as:

A particular opportunity has passed you by when that ship has sailed.

Although fault isn't explicit, I'd argue the latter idiom suggests the fault lies with the individual having waited too long to take advantage of an opportunity.

A day late and a dollar short

is another idiom meaning

late and ill-prepared

There is even a TV movie with this as a title based on a book of the same title

  • Wow, so many story plots come to mind with this expression, truly poetic. – brasofilo Nov 18 at 9:56
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    @brasofilo, and the universalit of the statement is amazing. Every person on Earth has experienced this truism. – JBH Nov 18 at 17:29

The early bird gets the worm.

Whoever arrives at the prize first gets it. (It's implied that slowpokes do not get anything)

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    “EARLY BIRD Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird And catch the worm for your breakfast plate. If you’re a bird, be an early early bird-- But if you’re a worm, sleep late.” ― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends – KannE Nov 15 at 3:05
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    I still prefer the corollary: "But the second mouse gets the cheese..." – Darrel Hoffman Nov 15 at 16:32
  • And if you want something else for breakfast, get up later. – RedSonja Nov 16 at 9:14
  • This expresses the corollary of the OP's thought. – Andrew Neely Nov 21 at 14:39

How about

He who hesitates is lost

I had to look up the source for this proverb, which seems to be a play:

https://www.bookbrowse.com/expressions/detail/index.cfm/expression_number/455/he-who-hesitates-is-lost

Regarding 'trains' and tardiness...

That train has left the station.

(Also, the train instead of that train is said.)

Broadly defined:

That opportunity has already passed; that cannot be undone.

https://www.phrases.net/phrase/that-train-has-left-the-station_20986

It's similar to this saying--You've missed the boat.--meaning something is already underway, so it's too late to weigh in on that; you've missed your chance to do so or an opportunity in general.

And regarding the [pooping] ones...

"[Poop] or get off the pot!" Basic meaning: Quit stalling!

Get it? Public restroom stalls... Never mind; toilet humor is optional.

  • Isn't 'shit or get off the pot' more about hogging facilities/opportunities and stopping others accessing them? It's akin to 'dog in the manger' in that it is about the result of the shitter/dog being in a place they have no use for as a dog cannot east hay. The idiom the OP is after is about the person's loss being their own fault. – Spagirl Nov 15 at 15:08
  • @Spagirl, I know, some people use it like--My turn!--quite literally in public restrooms sometimes, but it's more about the 'constipated' person wasting time and possibly missing out because of it; it's not really about selfishness, but that's an interesting viewpoint. Which are we more concerned about--the pooper or the pot?--ha-ha. In any case, the poop part is intended to be an aside; that's why no reference is cited for it, but here is one just FYI: en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/…. – KannE Nov 15 at 17:25
  • I stand corrected then, that's certainly never been my understanding of the meaning. Every day a school day! – Spagirl Nov 15 at 17:33
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    My upvote is for "The train has left the station." – J.R. Nov 16 at 12:28

I've once heard the latin saying :

Tarde venientibus ossa.

Those who come late just get the scraps [litt. 'bones'].

This is admittedly not English, but a reference exists in wikipedia.

  • My English parents used this saying on me to mean "you are too late and it is your fault". Typically for not getting to the dinner table promptly and the worst I ever actually got was a cold dinner. – Simon G. Nov 15 at 16:19

@drewhart mentioned "that ship has sailed", but it doesn't really imply fault. However a common variant is "You missed the boat", which does imply that it is your fault in much the same way as the Lithuanian proverb.

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    Yes but neither has any inference of "fault", does it? – Robbie Goodwin Nov 19 at 20:28
  • @RobbieGoodwin "That ship has sailed" may not, but "You missed the boat" does. Answer edited, as its a good point. – Paul Johnson Nov 21 at 17:29

If you say

Too little, too late

you're "blaming someone for not doing enough to prevent a problem and for taking action only after the problem had become very bad."

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/too-little-too-late

Although not specifically about lateness an Englishman might remind one of the ongoing consequences of a person`s actions by saying "The pigeons have come (or will have come) home to roost.

  • He might well, and that's really not comparable. "The pigeons have (will have) come home to roost" means only that someone's been caught out… if you like, that the pigeon keeper has been caught out but either way, nothing to do with anyone being late unless it's changed to "The pigeons have (will have) already come home to roost." – Robbie Goodwin Nov 22 at 19:12

protected by tchrist Nov 15 at 20:28

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