late for(to) the meeting

apple posted:

Are "be late for" and "be late to" both correct and used interchangeably?

In COCA there are 9 instances of "late for the meeting" and 5 for "late to the meeting".

Hi, Apple,

"Be late for" and "be late to" are both correct, but they are not interchangeable. This is not to say, however, that a speaker cannot choose freely between "be late for the meeting" and "be late to the meeting." Either phrase is fine.

"For" is the preposition that naturally modifies "late" in such uses. If someone said, "I'm late," and we didn't know what he meant, we could ask, "What are you late for?" We could not ask, "What are you late to?"

Why, then, are constructions like "be late to the meeting" perfectly fine? I'd say it's because there is a concealed verbal meaning. "Be late to the meeting" might be said to be short for "be late in getting to the meeting."

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