Thursday, May 7, 2009

The different meanings of 'presently'

My students keep asking me the real meaning of 'presently'. In order to tell the meaning correctly, we have to look at the sentence to guess whether an article is written using standard English or American English. Of course, it will be difficult to tell if the writer uses a combination of British English and American English. Having said this, I will explain what 'presently' means.

In standard English or British English, 'presently' means 'soon'. An example is shown below:
Presently, there will be a lot of people queuing up to buy the latest Nokia mobile phones.

However in American English, 'presently' means 'at present'. The sentence below is an example of this usage:
Presently, I am doing a research on the side-effects of this drug.

Hence, we have to see where this word occurs to ascertain its meaning.

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