6

Does "be late for the green light" look natural? (I'm talking about a traffic light.)

I ask because though it looks good to me, Google doesn't find many search results (just 5, to be accurate) if I search for the exact phrase "late for the green light" (in quotes to search an exact phrase).

That makes me think that it isn't used in this way. How to say it then?

  • 1
    Vitaly, we usually advise people to wait a day or two before you choose an answer. That way, you increase the chance that you will get more answers. – GoDucks Dec 25 '15 at 9:08
  • 2
    @CopperKettle and Vitaly: Either I am asking or I ask is okay here. I actually prefer I ask, because it "feels" stronger. One aspect of the progressive is that it refers to a temporary duration. The simple present does not have this aspect. Therefore it feels stronger. You all have a great Nativity Festival and see you later! – GoDucks Dec 25 '15 at 9:12
  • 3
    It's 7 hits now, thanks to you asking this question :^) – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 9:18
  • Maybe "Oh, no! We're not gonna catch the green light!" (a non-native speaker here). – Damkerng T. Dec 25 '15 at 9:21
7

When I looked up those Google hits, my suspicions were confirmed: I had guessed at least one of them would say too late.

Lateness is something that implies tardiness. You can be late for an appointment, for example. You can also arrive too late to catch a train.

Traffic lights are not like appointments, though, or scheduled transportation. (You don't miss the seven o'clock green light, for example.) That's why I would probably not use late in conjunction with a traffic signal, unless I said something in a very specialized context, like:

I thought we might make that green light, but we were a bit too late getting to the intersection.

Moreover, a sentence like that is very unlikely to make it into writing. Missing a traffic light is something very temporary, and I'm unlikely to write more about it if I am writing later in the day. (This might help explain the very low number of hits.)

The word I think you'll find more often is miss: as in, we missed the green light.

  • "I thought we might make that green late" - - "green light", probably. Merry XMas, JR! – CowperKettle Dec 25 '15 at 10:21
  • @CopperKettle - make and miss are complementary verbs in this context. So, if we get through before the light turns red, we've made it, and if we don't, we've missed it. (Speaking of red and green lights, merry Christmas to you as well, CK!) – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 10:25
  • 2
    And in the US, when we "don't make the light|miss the light", we say informally that we "hit the light". Hit and miss. "I hit so many lights on the way home, the drive took an hour." We make the green light. On the hour drive, we hit the red lights. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 25 '15 at 13:02
6

Hurry (up)! You are not going to make the green light is how I would say what you want to say. I speak American English. I imagine those who speak British English say something different.

You can also just say: You are not going to make the light since green is implied.

Here are some examples for make the green light.

Merry Christmas!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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