"Il est tard."
There are no time tags on the main site either, only on a scope of 24 hours. Depending where people ask their questions, the chronological order may not be respected. Example: if I start a new question on this thread, it will get down as the last post. If you read all posts down to the very end of this thread, you will see that previous conversations are located below (including the earlier mentions that "he is late" translates to "il est en retard").
In English though, "late" as in "it is late" is an adjective the same as for "he is late." It's only an adverb when modifying a verb, like in "he arrived late." Thank you very much for your French explanations! They're just not jelling with my understanding of English grammar. (but why would I expect them to?!)
That's because in "trop tard" you have a modified adverb.
But if the adverb is describing a person (in this case, whoever is late), not a situation, "Il est" is more accurate while "C'est" is more oral/informal.
"il est tard": "tard" is an adverb and not an adjective which would qualify "il" as a person. this is an impersonal construction. if you mean "he is late", you use: "il est en retard".
"il est bas": may relate to a piece of furniture (a low stool, for ex) and also to a person, although that would need a context: "il est bas dans les sondages" (he is low in the polls).
Sorry, Sitesurf, I'm still having problems with this, despite your excellent explanations. You say (and I believe you) that in the sentence 'Il est tard', 'tard' is an adverb. But what is the verb being modified here? The only verb in the sentence is 'is', and it seems to me that what 'tard' is modifying is an unstated noun (the hour, or the season or whatever), and thus it's acting as an adjective. I'm sure I'm missing something, but what? Tricky blighter, language, isn't it? I think perhaps RuthBryant's comment at the bottom of the thread is the way to go - sometimes we just have to learn things rather than try to fully understand them!
In many cases, verb "être" is used to qualify the subject thanks to an adjective, but there are other cases, like this one, where the verb is complemented by an adverb or an adverbial phrase as attributes of position ( in time or space, incl. figurative):
il est tard = impersonal subject + être + adverb
il est tôt = il est tôt (it is early)
il/elle est en retard = real subject + être + adverbial locution (literally, "en retard" means: "in a delay")
il/elle est retardé/e = he is delayed ("retardé" does not mean "retarded").
That structure also exists in English, where "be" is not always complemented by an adjective: it is Monday, he is in the pink, she is under my thumb...
My confusion is that in English there are two basic positions for adjectives. The first is before nouns, and the second after 'linking verbs' (be, become, seem, etc). In English when we have the be verb, we follow it with an adjective, not an adverb. We don't say 'she is slowly' or 'it is slowly'. In both cases in English we use the adjective 'slow'. It seems that in French the verb 'to be' can be followed by an adverb as well as an adjective. How do we know when? Is it that the difference between 'He is smart' and 'He is late' is that smart is a personality trait and late is a temporary description of a situation?
How about "il est pur"? How is that different to "il est tard" and your explanations for it? It appears in the same section but is translated as "He is clean" as well as "It is pure". I'm happy to be told it is just to do with French idiom - ways to say things in a language don't always make explainable sense.
Many thanks Sitesurf. It was the first occasion that I noticed that you are answering the questions right here! I began to remember that I knew the difference between 'il est tard" (impersonnel) and "il est en retard" personnel. Like: il pleut;/ il neige etc.(impersonnel ones)
Two different sites use "Il est tard" specifically when giving ways that 'tard' an adverb is used. http://dictionnaire.reverso.net/francais-anglais/tard and http://www.wordreference.com/fren/tard