with Luke Taylor
"I keep hearing people using the word 'presently' when they ought to be using the word 'currently,' and it's driving me nuts. Would you please, please, please explain to your listeners the difference between the two? Thanks so much."And thank you for the message, Lee. We did a lot of investigation on this one, and although the information may not be entirely what you were seeking, we hope it will help ease your mind.
"Thou arte not presently in helthe of thy body."The OED goes on to explain that this sense of presently is "in regular use in most English dialects, and common in Scottish writers; revived in the U.S. and to some extent [the rest of] Britain in the 20th century."
"[We are] presently engaged in the research, design, development and production of high energy Lithium Battery power sources..."And here's another from the same year from the Dumfries Courier in Dumfries, Scotland:
"Mr. Savage was presently unemployed, his last employment being a year ago."Meanwhile, the Oxford English Dictionary also defines presently as an adverb meaning "in a little while, after a short time; soon; shortly." The OED says that this is "now the ordinary use" of the word.
"Nay, but he'll be here presently: let's go dress him like the witch of Brentford."
Presently the waitress entered.Given the word presently can mean both "soon" and "now," it might be easy to get it confused. Fowler's Modern English Usage acknowledges this risk of ambiguity, but asserts that "in practice the context normally makes it quite clear which sense is intended."
We are presently climbing to 30,000 feet on our way to our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet.Presently in the sentence above means "now."
I can't get to that request right now, but I will do so presently.Presently in this second instance means "soon." As Fowler's says, context is the key.