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What is the difference in using "Il est retard" and "Il est en retard"? If they are same, then how and why the two forms? I am new to French.

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EDIT (thanks to users @jlliagre, @ Luke Sawczak, @ yagmoth555 for their feedback.)

(1) You might have been confused by the non negligible number of occurrences of

il est retard

Google returns. User @jlliagre even found one in the "Grevisse de l'étudiant" 2017, missed by proofreaders... :

enter image description here

The expression is nevertheless invalid. While the en is unstressed and often no more nasalized (il est a r'tard), it is still there.

(2) The idiom

il est en retard

is correct and it conveys

he is late (speaking of someone) or it is late (speaking of something)

Être en retard is a set expression which can be conveyed in English by 'to be late'. French only sometimes is conveyed word-by-word by a English structure. Conversely, English only sometimes is conveyed word-by-word by a French structure.

As another example, take être en congés (be on holidays). Yet another one, être en phase and so on.

I think être and retard (a noun) does not make sense. It is by en that the whole set expression conveys be late (late is an adjective here).

Être + noun only works for identity things, such as professions. "Il est médecin." Since retard means "delay", the construction would be ungrammatical. Even if être retard did work, it would apparently mean "He is a delay." (thanks @ Luke Sawczak).

(3)

il est retardé

can mean, depending on the context,

il est en retard dans son développement intellectuel.

he/it is delayed.

The usual sense is the latter one. The interesting point is the comparison between il est retardé and il est en retard. (thanks to user @jlliagre for the clarification)

The difference between "il est en retard" and "il est retardé" is that in the former case, the expected time is over, or will be necessarily over (it's too late to be on time) while in the latter case, the expected time hasn't yet arrived. The person or object delayed might even be able to catch up the delay.

One shouldn't focus too much on the meaning "he is mentally deficient" because it is anecdotal here and the context should clearly sort out what is intended, not to mention it has no sense if "il" isn't a person but a train, a plane, a training, a Tour de France, whatever.

To further quote user @jlliagre:

C'est peut-être une influence de l'anglais où retard et retarded sont des insultes. En France, on dira plutôt attardé quand il s'agit de retard mental : Pierre est un attardé, il n'arrive pas... Le sens largement le plus courant de retardé correspond à l'anglais delayed.

See

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=est+retard%2Cest+en+retard&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=30&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cest%20retard%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cest%20en%20retard%3B%2Cc0

https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/%C3%AAtre_retard%C3%A9/68821

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/retard#fr

and the comments following my answer.

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    @robertpatrick It is a set expression which can be conveyed in English by 'be late'. French only sometimes is conveyed word-by-word by a English structure. Conversely, English only sometimes is conveyed word-by-word by a French structure. – Dimitris Oct 20 at 18:19
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    @robertpatrick (il) est retard simply does not exist: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Dimitris Oct 20 at 18:23
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    Être + noun only works for identity things, such as professions. "Il est médecin." Since retard means "delay", the construction would be ungrammatical. Even if être retard did work, it would apparently mean "He is a delay." – Luke Sawczak Oct 20 at 19:30
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    @jlliagre Une insulte quand ont parle de la déficiance comme l'explication de Dimitris. Change ton exemple à; "Pierre est retardé, il n'arrive pas a enlever la neige et est en retard a cause de cela." Le sens n'est vraiment pas pareil, mais je suis d'accord que le sens peut etre correct, mais j'aime mieux prévenir que c'est péjoratif dans le contexte du larousse, l'explication du larousse ne le marque pas. – yagmoth555 Oct 20 at 21:10
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    @yagmoth555 Ta dernière phrase ne marche pas en France. C'est peut-être une influence de l'anglais où retard et retarded sont des insultes. En France, on dira plutôt attardé quand il s'agit de retard mental : Pierre est un attardé, il n'arrive pas... Le sens largement le plus courant de retardé correspond à l'anglais delayed. – jlliagre Oct 20 at 21:19

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