We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
On Forensic Fridays, we dissect the English language to see what it’s made of and how to use it properly. Today, we’re going to examine another pair of words that are not interchangeable, although they are frequently used as though they were.
We’ve all seen statements like “I’m presently busy doing . . .” or “She’s presently involved in a lot of . . .” We’ve probably even made such statements ourselves. After all, “present” means “right now,” doesn’t it?
Yes, it does, but “presently” does not. “Presently” means “soon.” It is properly used to mean something will take place in the near future. Could be five minutes or three days, but sometime soon. “I’ll feed the dog presently.” or “I’ve got to finish doing my hair, but I’ll be ready presently.”
The term we confuse “presently” with is “at present.” This term really does mean right now. “I’m engaged in a project at present.” These two terms are not identical, and one cannot be substituted for the other.
Generally speaking, only one of these terms—presently—is commonly misused. I don’t recall hearing someone say, “I’ll feed the dog at present,” meaning in just a little while. You could, however, say, “I’m busy at present, but I’ll feed the dog presently.”
Remember, “at present” means right now or currently. “Presently” means soon.
What grammatical misuse bothers you? What particular area of grammar would you like help with? I’d love to hear and help.
For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.
For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.