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I have a question about the following sentence -

"I'm sorry I was so late getting back to you."

Is it possible to say that -

"I'm sorry I was so late to get back to you."

About the first sentence I'm not sure about the grammar structure. If there is any difference between two sentences, could you explain that?

  • both sentences structures are found in COCA. I think both are okay. – Maulik V Apr 29 '14 at 11:16
  • @MaulikV Can you quote some real example sentences found in COCA? I'm not sure which structures you were referring to. I couldn't find a similar sentence there ("so late to get/getting"). Many of what I found are "too late to [verb]", and a handful of "too late in [verb-ing]". – Damkerng T. Apr 29 '14 at 12:11
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Your first example is idiomatic; your second is not.

"Late getting back" is an elision of "late in getting back," where the gerund is used as complement to the preposition. Here, "in" carries a meaning something like "related to."

I was late in realizing that he was secretly a werewolf.

"To" does not have this meaning. The preposition "to" is used with "late" only where the complement is a noun:

I was late to the party.

I was late to my own wedding.

or with the adverb "too" to indicate that the lateness was excessive:

I was too late to save her.

He arrived too late to meet the famous molecatcher.

"So" does not work in these sentences the way that "too" does, so your second example would not be idiomatic in most English dialects.

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- "I'm sorry I was so late getting back to you."

I guess the above sentence does not involve any physical presence of the person. It is mostly used when having a chat online or over phone.

- "I'm sorry I was so late to get back to you."

On the other hand, this involves the physical presence.

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