All about the French phrase "Je suis en retard"

Ready to find out all the things you ever wanted to know about the basic sentence “Je suis en retard”?

Including a detailed explanation of what it is and how to use it in a conversation with an audio example. Together with the useful stuff we added like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example and more!

Oh and before I forget, you will also find more of these sentences guides like this one on this page and the ultimate list of all our French words pages on this page. Wishing you a good learning!

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French to English


Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?


The literal meaning is:

  • Je  → I
  • Suis → Am
  • En retard → In delay

Whenever French people are running late for something, you will hear them saying “Je suis en retard !” (I’m late!). It’s the simplest way to express the idea of “being late” in French and a basic sentence that you should know, unless you are always on time!

It has a neutral register, so you can use it in every situation. Let’s see some examples…

How to use

You are running late for an appointment, a meeting, etc. and someone asks you something. You can’t do it right now, so you say: “Je suis en retard” (I’m late). This implies that you have an excuse for not answering this person right now.

For more complete sentences, you can say: “Je ne peux pas, je suis en retard” (I can’t, I’m late) or “Plus tard, je suis en retard” (Later, I’m late) or even “Pas maintenant, je suis en retard” (Not now, I’m late).

Another scenario: you arrive at your meeting and you are 20 minutes late… the first thing you should do (after “Bonjour“) is to apologize for being late. 

And for that you say: “Désolé, je suis en retard” (Sorry, I’m late) or “Désolé pour le retard” (Sorry for the delay). Because people will probably be upset if you don’t mention any kind of apologies. Furthermore, it’s an occasion to explain right after why you have been late. (Or at least invent a possible explanation…)


  • Chui en retard. (“I’m late“)(Familiar)
  • Je suis à la bourre. (“I am delayed“)(Familiar)
  • Je suis charrette. (“I’m late“)(Familiar)
  • Je suis grave à la bourre. (“I am super delayed“)(Familiar)
  • Je suis à la traîne. (“I am delayed“)

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Bad luck
Léa:   Je sais, je suis en retard. Je suis vraiment désolé !
I know, I’m late. I am really sorry!
Claude:   C’est pas grave. Tu veux boire quelque chose ?
That’s fine. Do you want something to drink?
Léa:   Oui, un jus d’orange, s’il te plaît… Oh, en fait non, juste de l’eau.
Yes, an orange juice, please… Oh, actually no, just water.
Claude:   D’accord.
Léa:   Parfait, merci !
Perfect, thank you!
Claude:   Alors, qu’est-ce-qu’il s’est passé ? Pourquoi tu es arrivée en retard ?
So, what happened? Why did you arrive late?
Léa:   Tout d’abord, j’étais coincée au travail.
First of all, I was stuck at work.
Claude:   Pourquoi ? Trop de choses à faire ?
Why? Too many things to do?
Léa:   Oui, et aussi parce que mon collègue a fait des erreurs.
Yes, and also because my colleague made mistakes.
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