Late vs Lately: What's the Difference?

People often get confused between the words 'late' and 'lately'. Let's see what they mean.


Late can be an adjective or an adverb that means after the correct time. It's the opposite of early.

Let's look at some examples with 'late'.

  1. I'm not hungry because I had a late breakfast. (adjective)
  2. She was half an hour late for her lunch appointment. (adjective)
  3. I slept late and missed my first class. (adverb)
  4. She arrived late at the airport. (adverb)


Lately, on the other hand, is always an adverb that means recently or not long ago. Let’s look at some examples to understand it better.

  1. I haven’t studied a lot lately. I have watched a lot of movies instead.
  2. Have you read any good books lately that you’d suggest I read?
  3. I have been thinking about you lately.
  4. She hasn’t been looking too well lately.

Now, that’s it for the difference between the two. However, there’s more to the word late. Late can have a few different meanings.

  1. Near the end of a period of time (both as adjective and adverb). e.g., They built the building in the late 19th century.
  2. Doing something or something occurring after the planned, expected, usual or necessary time (both as adjective and adverb). e.g., You’ll be late for your flight if you don’t leave now for the airport.
  3. To refer to someone who has died (as adjective). e.g., His late brother and I were friends.

By the way, since we are already talking about the word late, here’s a phrase you may or may not have heard but is commonly used, “better late than never”. It means it is better to do something or to arrive at a place after the expected time than not do it or arrive at all. e.g., He finally started using Audible to improve his listening skills. Better late than never.

And yes, Audible is a service that YOU can use as well to improve your English. Sign up for a free trial of Audible by clicking the following link or the picture below. (You also help me make more lessons like this one by using this link.)