usage of preposition "to" and "for"

Hi I want to know which of these sentence’s is correct

  1. Ralph was late to work again. He may be fired.
  2. Ralph was late for work again. He may be fired.

According to me both seem to be correct however my friends opinion the 2nd sentence late for work is correct. Could you please help me with this.

As an American, I’d be more likely to say “late for work.”

I’m not sure if other regions use “to.” I use “to” for motion - I’ll drive you to work.

In COCA, ( you get 54 per million words for “late to work” and 131 per million words for “late for work”, so your intuition may be right.

NB Not all the “late to work” examples are of the above type, but most are.

In the BNC, there is only one hit from “late to work”.

So the Brits definitely don’t like it.

Hi Bastiang

Like Barb, I’d be more likely to say “late for work”. However, I have also heard people use “late to work” sometimes.

Google hits for .uk sites:

late for work - 28,300
late to work - 15,900

Oddly enough, the Telegraph, for example, didn’t seem to object to using “late to work”. And they referred to employees being “late to work” on the British Chambers of Commerce website, too. I wonder whether Molly’s BNC search results might have been a little misleading.

Maybe we’ll be able to get some additional input from someone who lives in the UK.

More than once? Did you find other examples, Amy?

More than once? Did you find other examples, Amy?

As for Google UK pages, I got this:

112,000 for “late to work”.
46,400 for “late for work”.

Have we got different Google UKs, Amy?

Random choice:

Google NZ

1,530 for “late for work”.
1,730 for “late to work”.

Let’s remember that the base of this discussion is around which form is more common, right? So, where and what should we search to find that out?

Here’s an interesting example. Both these are from the same page.

365 Excuses for Being [u]Late for Work /u
by Andy Sharpe (Author)

  1. Product Description

You’re late to work for the fourth time this week, but you’ve already told your boss that you ran over your neighbour’s cat, the newspaper crashed through the window, your alarm clock broke, and your breakfast cereal only snapped and crackled, but didn’t pop. These tired excuses won’t work again - so what are you supposed to do? … 1558506357

I googled only for results on .uk (please read thus: “dot - u - k”) sites. I figured that by doing so, chances were fairly good that I’d get a lot of results for sites from the UK.

Yes, too many to post all of them. You could check them out yourself, of course, while we’re waiting for some input from someone who lives in the UK.

That’s odd. look at this:

British Chamber of Commerce Search results… Results 1 - 1 for "late to work ". (0.07 seconds)

Well, it’s also possible to google exclusively for hits on or on sites, for example.


The BNC:

late to school - 2
late for school - 16


late to school - 14
late for school - 59


1,270,000 English pages for “late to school”.
362,000 English pages for “late for school”.

I get the feeling that the word “school” has different meanings there. With “late to school”, I get a feeling that it refers to the building, and with “late for school” a feeling that it refers to the activity (studying, etc.). Maybe it’s the same with the word “work” above.


arrive late to work/arrive late at work mean the same = arrive late at the place of work
arrive late for work = late to begin the activity called “work” at the set time.

Just a thought.

Similar difference between

I’m going to/work. See you later! = work is the activity
I’m going/to work/. See you later! = work is the place of work

What do you get from these regarding meaning?

I arrived late to the plane.
I arrived late at the plane.
I arrived late for the plane.

Early to rise and early to play, late to work upon the next day (smile)

Im a poet and don’t know it !!

Of course people say late to work. As mentioned, language is alive, like that Robot! 5 ALIVE !!! What was the girl’s name?

I would agree with Barb and Amy. Probably “I was late for work” and “I got to work late” are the usual forms. I don’t see any evidence that BrEs “definitely dislike it”, though. I would guess that Molly’s native speaker intuition has led him to interpret the googles in a particular way.


Hey, note that I interpreted the following in that particular way "In the BNC, there is only one hit from “late to work”. I then moved on to search for a wider view. I’m still open to conclusions, both intuition-based and corpora-based.

The search goes on. Y’with us?

I’m not quite sure who “us” would be; but I think in any case the original question has been well answered by Barb and Amy.


What need for your input then? The original question asked which was the correct form. All Amy and Barb did was say which they would use more naturally use. So, we have two comments from AmEng speakers and one that says you agree with those speakers. Has the original question really been answered?



Off you go then. Lots of other threads for you to play in.