In English, there is a distinct difference (at least where I live) in the meaning of the following two ideas:
- to be late
- to be too late.
»Too late« carries an implication (albeit perhaps a tacit one) that one will be too late for something to happen or to be avoided.
»If you don't catch the next bus, you'll be late«, might be used in the context of arriving on time for work. You might run afoul of your employer for arriving later than the agreed time, but there is nothing irrecoverable about the problem caused.
On the other hand, »If you don't catch the next bus, you'll be too late« might be used in the context of a dying parent in hospital. If you miss the next bus but get the one after, you might arrive at your destination too late to see your mother before she dies, and no action that you then take could recover the loss.
I have the impression, however, that the expression »zu spät« in German appears to be used in contexts where, in English, one would simply say »late« as, for example, in the sentence:
- Wenn du nicht den nächsten Bus nimmst, kommst du zu spät.
Is my impression correct? If it is, what would one say to convey a meaning along the lines of the English »too late«?