In Cantonese, you can use 遲 to indicate someone is late (e.g., not punctual) or the time is late (e.g., past midnight so all restaurants are closed).

However, it seems like Mandarin speakers use 晚 in place of 遲 most of the time.

What are the Mandarin guidelines for using 遲 vs. 晚? Should you just always use 晚?

  • Another character that is used for "late" in Cantonese is 晏, which I don't think is used in that way in Mandarin.
    – user102008
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 3:05
  • 夜 is also used to mean "late" in Cantonese, as in "late at night". It is closer to the usage of 晚 in Mandarin. For example, 你咁夜都仲未返屋企? in Cantonese would be 你這麼晚還未回家? in Mandarin.
    – ckpwong
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:22

4 Answers 4


晚 and 遲 are interchangeable when it is used as an adverb for "late"

For example, 晚到= 遲到; 來晚了= 來遲了

But 遲 have the additional meaning of "delay"


  • You can say 遲遲才回覆 (reply after long delay/ reply very late) but you can't say 晚晚才回覆

  • You can say 則有變 (situations change when you delay your action/ situations change when you are late to act) but you can't say 晚則有變


迟(the standard simplified Chinese word, while the Chinese Traditional is 遲) and 晚 both have the meaning of late.

  • usually means late for the appointed time or a certain time. example: Party七点开始,你来了!—— The party start at 7:00 pm, you came late!

    The word '迟到' is frequently used to describe late for certain time

  • is more complex

    It has the meaning of late for a certain time. example: Party七点开始,你来了!—— The party start at 7:00 pm, you came late!

    It also have the meaning of just being late but not for a certain time. example: 他很到家—— He arrived home very late. example: 他昨晚很离开—— He left late last night.

    Or it means evening. example: 晚上——evening, example:今——tonight, example:昨——last night.

Fun fact: to describe public transportation's behind schedule, the word is 晚点, where '点' means the schedule time for public transportation to arrive.

  • There is a misspelling 'Parity' in your answer. I guess you meant 'party'.
    – dan
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 9:39

I think it's meaningless to just compare them without context. Maybe know more phrases can be more helpful.


I'm late.

correct: 我来晚了,我迟到了,我迟到了 wrong: 我晚了

In many case, they are very similar. But in other case, they different, and can't replace with each other.



correct:晚上/夜晚 (can't use 迟)


correct:延迟 (can't use 晚)


To indicate late, 晚 is more modern while 遲(迟) is more ancient. Cantonese has retained many ancient Chinese language components. Both of them is understandable in nowadays communication.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.