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Late or lately?

from English Grammar Today

Late is both an adverb and an adjective; it means the opposite of early. Lately is also an adverb; it means ‘recently’.

Late meaning ‘not on time’

Late as an adverb means ‘not on time’:

Well, I couldn’t find my classroom, so I got to the classroom a bit late and then I had to sing a song in front of the other students!

Not: I got to the classroom a bit lately

The programme started late.

Not: The programme started lately.

Late as an adjective means ‘after the usual time’:

We had a late breakfast.

Compare

We got the train home late.

describes when the activity happened

I got the late train home.

describes the train

Lately meaning ‘recently’

We use lately for states or for repeated events, mostly with the present perfect:

She says she’s been feeling tired lately. I think she’s working too much.

He’s been studying hard lately. He’s got exams at the end of the month.

Warning:

We don’t use lately for single events that happened recently:

I had a strange experience recently.

Not: I had a strange experience lately.

Warning:

We don’t use lately as an adjective:

We usually have a late lunch.

Not: … a lately lunch.

(“Late or lately ?” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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