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Note 137 – The use of the word ‘presently’

How do use the word ‘presently’ in a sentence?  My grandparents used it when I was a child when saying something like “we will be eating the cake presently”. I remember the meaning to be later – sometime in the future.

According to The Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library), the meaning is dependent on the verb tense.  In the above example, the future tense was used “we will be eating…”.  If it had read “we are presently eating the cake”, then it would mean now.

The Writer’s Handbook also explains that British English has historically used presently to mean ‘soon’, whereas it is now more common to mean ‘now’.  The latter is apparently how the Scottish and Americans always used it anyway.

For those of you that read yesterday’s blog, the previous sentence is another example of the use of the word ‘latter’.

That’s it for today.  This blog forms part of my writing challenge. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive my daily blogs by email so that you don’t miss any. Just click ‘sign me up’ on the home page. Alternatively you can follow my blogs on Twitter!/madeirasandra or my new Tips and Luxuries Facebook page. Requests for future blogs (punctuation/grammar/writing tips) are always welcome.

Until tomorrow…


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Reference list:

The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Please let me know what you think of my blog - constructive comments welcome. Have a great day Sandra Freelance Writer


One thought on “Note 137 – The use of the word ‘presently’

  1. I had always thought that “presently” meant soon. And I also thought I was the only one who knew that definition. So, to save myself embarrassment in from of everyone else in my universe who thinks it means “now,” I never, ever use the word.

    Posted by Laura | September 15, 2011, 2:31 am

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