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 Sep 18 '17 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 Oct 30 '17 at 17:22
up vote 1 down vote accepted

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"

Example:

  • 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 Sep 15 '17 at 9:39
  • @dan Thanks, the error has been fixed – jiaxyan Sep 15 '17 at 12:25

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

eg:

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.

eg:

evening/night

correct:晚上/夜晚 (can't use 迟)

delay

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.

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