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.
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)
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?
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
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.
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?