"Je suis désolé mais j'ai eu un empêchement de dernière minute."
"Sorry, but something has come up at the last minute."
In your 'Useful Expressions' list, one you will certainly want to put at the top of that list is avoir un empêchement.
J'ai eu un empêchement is the equivalent of saying 'Something has come up', 'Something has cropped up', 'There has been a (last-minute) hitch', etc. It is a very convenient expression which avoids having to explain what the problem is, or simply the fact that you have changed your mind about some arrangement. Consider the following:
- Si tu as un empêchement, préviens-moi.
= If something comes up, let me know.
- Camille a eu un empêchement de dernière minute. Elle n'a pas pu participer à la réunion.
= Camille ran into a problem at the last minute. She wasn't able to participate in the meeting.
The verb empêcher means 'to prevent':
- La chaleur m'empêche de dormir.
= The heat is preventing me from sleeping.
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