The difference between “currently” and “presently”

Many people – native English speakers included – are confused by the word “presently”.

In UK English it has traditionally been a formal, literary word which means “in a short time”, “soon” or “before long” – in contrast to “currently”, which means “at the present time”.

Here are some examples:

Please hold the line, I’ll be with you presently.
i.e. Please don’t put the phone down, I have to do something else right now and I’ll talk to you again in a short time.

I’m sorry Angela isn’t here yet, but she just called us and we’re expecting her to arrive presently.
i.e. “soon”

They drove through the forest. Presently they came to a small town, where they pulled up at a petrol station.
i.e. “before long”

However, because “presently” has an obvious close association with the word “present”, people tend to use it to mean “at the present time”, “currently”. This usage is likely to be considered incorrect by conservative speakers of UK English – as in this example:

WRONG
We are presently experiencing problems with the internet connection in the London office.

RIGHT
We are currently experiencing problems with the internet connection in the London office.

BUT…

In US English, it is correct to use “presently” as a synonym for “currently”. Because of this, some UK English speakers may also find this usage acceptable.

More examples of how to use “currently”:

The price is currently being negotiated.
i.e. the negotiations have started but haven’t finished yet.

The employee started working for the Company in 2015 and is currently employed as Sales Director.
i.e. at the present time the employee works as Sales Director.

Speakers of US English would probably be fine with “presently” being used instead of “currently” in such sentences, but some speakers of UK English might think it incorrect.

 

 

 

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How to translate “termin” (time expression)

The Polish word “termin” can mean a period of time or a point in time.

In English, the word “term” can also mean a period of time or a point in time. But “term” has very specific uses (relating to e.g. school semesters, prison sentences, pregnancy etc.). As a result, in most circumstances “termin” cannot be translated as “term”.

“Termin” usually translates as “closing date”, “deadline”, “time limit”, “date”, “time”, “period” or “duration”, depending on context.

Some examples:

Termin składania wniosków upłynął kilka dni temu.

Mamy świadomość, że wyznaczyliśmy sobie napięty termin.

Może to uczynić przedłużając termin Programu gospodarki odpadami rolnymi.

Termin ważności produktu został podany w ulotce.

Termin ważności pozwolenia budowę

The closing date for the submission of applications passed a few days ago.

We are aware that we have set ourselves a tight deadline.

It can be done by extending the duration of the Agricultural Waste Management Programme.

The product’s expiry date is given in the leaflet.

Validity period of a building permit

Because of the different meanings of “termin”, you should also be careful how you translate the verbs that go with it, such as “ustalić” and “określić” and especially “upływać”.

Examples of how to translate “ustalić / określić termin”

Chciałbym ustalić termin naszego kolejnego spotkania.

Komisja może ustalić termin, w którym grupa powinna dostarczyć opinię lub sprawozdanie.

Proszę zadzwonić do Johna i ustalić termin.

Należy określić termin rozpoczęcia tego obowiązku.

Na każdym posiedzeniu Konferencji Stron należy określić termin i miejsce następnego posiedzenia.

I would like to schedule a date for our next meeting.

The Commission may set a deadline by which the group should deliver an opinion or report.

Please give John a call and arrange a time.

We must establish the starting date for these obligations.

Each sitting of the Conference of the Parties should determine the time and place of the next sitting.

 

How to translate “upływać termin”

Termin upływa w piątek. 

Sentences like this are often incorrectly translated as follows:

The deadline elapses on Friday.
The deadline expires on Friday
.

A deadline is a point in time, not a period of time. Only periods of time, or things that last or are valid for a period of time, can elapse or expire (or lapse, or end).

As they are points in time, deadlines and closing dates can only “be” or “pass”. And we usually use the verb “to be” with them:

The deadline is Friday.
The closing date is on Friday.

If you want to refer to the period of time in which a task must be finished or documentation submitted, you might translate the above sentence as follows:

We have until Friday.  i.e. We have the time between now and Friday to complete the task / submit the documents.

More examples:

Termin ważności leku upływa jeden dzień po podanej na etykiecie dacie odniesienia.

 

 

Termin złożenia naszej propozycji faktycznie upłynął kilka dni temu.

To uprawnienie obowiązuje do upływu terminu ważności prawa jazdy.

The medicine’s expiry date is one day after the reference date indicated on the label.
The medicine’s validity period expires one day after the reference date indicated on the label. 

The deadline for submitting our proposal passed a few days ago.

The right applies until the driving licence expires.

 

Some typical mistakes with “deadline”

WRONG
Please note that the deadline for delivery expires on 21 April 2018 at the latest.

RIGHT
Please note that the deadline for delivery is 21 April 2018.

WRONG
After the expiry of the deadline the Technical Arbitrator will not take into account any documents provided by the Parties.

RIGHT
After the deadline the Technical Arbitrator will not take into account any documents provided by the Parties.

WRONG
As the last day of this deadline falls on a Sunday (20 May), the last day of the deadline will be moved to Monday, 21 May. Following the lapse of this deadline the tender participants will not be able to challenge the outcome of the prequalification directly.

RIGHT
As this deadline falls on a Sunday (20 May), it will be moved to Monday, 21 May. After this deadline the tender participants will not be able to challenge the outcome of the prequalification directly.

 

More examples of how to use “deadline”

If we don’t get a move on we won’t make the deadline.

In order to meet the deadline we will have to divide the work between the three of us.

It’s too late now. We’ve missed the deadline.

 

How to use “time limit”

“Time limit” is used to refer to a period of time.

I have set my students a two-hour time limit to do the task.

The travel pass allows you to use the rail system as much as you like within a certain time limit.

But – we do not usually describe a time limit as starting, ending, expiring or lapsing.

WRONG
The time limit for the Borrower to rescind the agreement starts on the day the Borrower signs the agreement and lapses 14 days later.

Such sentences need to be reworded.

RIGHT
The Borrower may rescind the agreement within 14 days of signing.

Rewording sentences without using the phrase “time limit” is usually possible:

I have set my students two hours to do the task.

The travel pass allows you to use the rail system as much as you like within a certain limited period.

We can, however, talk about “extending” a time limit:

The six-month time limit will be automatically extended by this additional period.

 

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The difference between “practice” and “practise”

In British English – like “licence/license” and “advice/advise” – “practice” is a NOUN and “practise” is a VERB:

NOUN
Safeguarding clients’ personal data should be standard practice in the company.
He has been a lawyer for many years, but he only opened his own practice last month.

Practice makes perfect.”

VERB
If you want to be a professional pianist you must practise for several hours every day.
So you’re a lawyer? When did you start practising?

In American English, however — and in contrast to the rule for “license” — “practice” is used for both the noun and the verb. “Practise” is a less common spelling variant.

 

 

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The difference between “licence” and “license”

“Licence” is the British English NOUN – The bar has received a licence to sell alcohol.

“License” is the British English VERB – We are now licensed to sell alcohol.

You can remember this because it is the same as “advice” (noun) and “advise” (verb). But of course, unlike advice/advise, licence/license are both pronounced the same.

“Licensor” and “Licensee” always have an s.

In American English, however, “license” is used for both the noun and the verb.

You may think this is very sensible, but check out the next tip on “practice” and “practise”.

 

 

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The difference between “prescribe” and “proscribe”

The verbs “prescribe” and “proscribe” are very close in spelling and pronunciation but almost opposites in meaning. Don’t get them confused!

Prescribe” means “stipulate” or “order”. Perhaps the most common usage is in the field of medicine – where a doctor prescribes a course of treatment for a patient.

Proscribe” means “condemn”, “prohibit”, “forbid” or “outlaw”.

So, a doctor could prescribe one course of action while proscribing another: Eat more vegetables. Stop smoking.

“Prescribe” is in common everyday use, but “proscribe” is not commonly used.

Other examples:

Prescribe
The doctor prescribed a course of very strong antibiotics.
The regulations prescribe that employees must undergo an eye examination every five years.

Proscribe
The government has proscribed far right and ultra-nationalist organisations.
Eating pork is proscribed by their religion.

The noun deriving from “prescribe” is “prescription”. A doctor writes you a prescription which you take to the pharmacy in order to buy the prescribed medicine.

“Prescription” also has a specific legal use. It refers to the right to use land owned by another person following continued and regular use of that land without receiving any complaint from the owner for a certain period of time (usually around five years). A claim to such a right is called a “prescriptive claim”.

The noun deriving from “proscribe” is “proscription”. A proscription is a ban or prohibition.

 

 

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How to translate “przedsiębiorca”

“Przedsiębiorca” is usually translated as “entrepreneur”. Although this is one of several possible translations, 99% of the time it is the wrong word.

First of all, look at a Polish definition of “przedsiębiorca”:

Zgodnie z definicją  zawartą w art. 431 kodeksu cywilnego przedsiębiorca to: „osoba fizyczna, osoba prawna i jednostka organizacyjna, która nie jest osobą prawną, a której ustawa przyznaje zdolność prawną, prowadząca we własnym imieniu działalność gospodarczą lub zawodową”.

I have underlined “osoba prawna i jednostka organizacyjna, która nie jest osobą prawną” because the key difference between “przedsiębiorca” and “entrepreneur” is that “przedsiębiorca” includes this meaning while “entrepreneur” does not.

“Przedsiębiorca” has a very broad meaning, ranging from an individual natural person who carries out economic activity to a large company.

In contrast, “entrepreneur” has a very narrow meaning. It only means an individual natural person who carries out economic activity – and is usually used to describe businessmen who built successful businesses with a great deal of initiative and risk-taking. So Steve Jobs was an entrepreneur, Virgin’s Richard Branson is an entrepreneur, Tesla’s Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, Jan Kulczyk was an entrepreneur.

If you use “przedsiebiorca” to refer to an entity rather than an individual natural person, then you cannot use “entrepreneur”.

Instead you should use one of the following, which may depend on the context. I find “business entity” is usually the best-fit:

            business entity
            enterprise
            company
            business
            economic operator
            business operator
            operator
            business venture
            undertaking

Translate rejestr przedsiębiorców as “companies register”, NOT “register of entrepreneurs”.

 

 

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The difference between “commitment” and “commission” (and “committee” and “committal”)

The verb “commit” has numerous related noun forms: commitment, commission, committal and committee. Many people – native English speakers included – do not know all the differences between them.

A criminal “commits a crime”. But we cannot talk about the “commitment of a crime”. Instead we say “commission of a crime”.

We use the word “commitment” to describe something that you have to do or something that requires time and responsibility – i.e. something you have promised to do or have to do due to, e.g., work or family reasons. We can talk about “family commitments” or “work commitments”.

When we promise to do something or take on a responsibility, we “make a commitment”.

For example: I’d like a dog, but it would be such a commitment, and I simply don’t have the time.

This usage of the noun is countable.

If you “show commitment” you demonstrate that you are willing to do something.

For example, an employer might include the following in a reference about a former employee: David is a very diligent worker and showed enormous commitment to the job.

This usage of the noun is uncountable.

 

The word “commission” can be a noun and a verb.

We can talk about the “commission of an offence/murder” as well as a crime.

A “commission” can be a request to do a piece of work or carry out an activity: We’ve got a commission to investigate allegations of corruption.

As a verb, “commission” has the same meaning: I’ve been commissioned to write a series of articles on alternative energy sources.

A “commission” can be a fee for an agent to carry out certain work: As a sales rep I don’t earn a salary, I get a 20% commission on each sale.

A “commission” can also be a group of people appointed and given the power (i.e. commissioned) to perform certain tasks.

 

A “committee” is also a group of people, but differs from a commission in that its members are representatives of a parent body. A committee makes decisions on behalf of the parent body.

 

A “committal” is an act of entrusting something or someone to the care of another person. So, for example, you can have a committal of property to an attorney, or a committal of a person to a mental health institution. In the latter case we talk about someone being committed to an institution.

 

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Common mistakes with the Present Perfect tense

The Present Perfect tense is made up of have/has and the past participle of a verb:

He has eaten all the chocolates.
I have included your amendments in the draft agreement.

It is perhaps the most difficult of all verb tenses in English. This is partly because many other languages don’t have an equivalent, so speakers of those languages find it difficult to understand the concept.

In this post I will not try to explain what the Present Perfect tense means – instead I will show you how to avoid some of the most common mistakes.

 

WRONG
We have finally received the requested documents on Monday.
We have submitted the information before we filed the application.
I have phoned him yesterday.
We have not completed the report last week.
The transaction has not been finalised by 31 December 2017.
We have analysed the contracts during the first due diligence process.
This issue has been discussed prior to executing the transaction.

All the above examples are mistakes because the Present Perfect cannot be used with expressions of finished time (i.e. specified times in the past – underlined in the above examples).

An expression of finished time is any word or phrase that tells you when something happened or did not happen. If an expression of finished time describes when an action happened (or did not happen) you should use the Past Simple:

RIGHT
We finally received the requested documents on Monday.
We submitted the information before we filed the application.
I phoned him yesterday.
We did not complete the report last week.
The transaction was not finalised by 31 December 2017.
We analysed the contracts during the first due diligence process.
This issue was discussed prior to executing the transaction.

 

The Present Perfect often goes with adverbs of indefinite time: 

already
as yet
before
ever
just
never
recently 
since
so far
still
to date
until now
yet

We’ve already met a couple of times.
So far the regulator has not indicated that this type of activity is contrary to the provisions on insurance activity.
We still have not received payment of the invoice.
Have you ever seen anything like this before?
Mr Smith has just arrived.
We have recently received a new instruction from this client.
We have not heard from the tax authority yet.

 

The Present Perfect may be used for expressing an action that continues up to the present time. Compare the following:

I have worked at the company for three years.
(And I work there now.)

I worked at the company for three years.
(I no longer work there.)

WRONG
I am working at the company for three years.

Our lawyers have represented many high profile clients.
(And continue to do so.)
Adam is a highly experienced investigator who has worked on numerous cases of this type.
(And continues to do so.)

This form is useful in marketing material and CVs.

 

The Present Perfect is used in sentences that contain the following constructions:

this is the first time…
it is the second best…
it is the worst…
this is the only time…
etc.

This is the second time that we have asked you to send us the documents.
This is the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in.
This is the heaviest suitcase I have ever carried.

 

In time clauses with after, until, when, as soon as, once, we often use the Present Perfect to refer to future events:

As soon as we have heard the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I won’t contact the client until I’ve received your instructions.
I’ll give you further details when I’ve discussed the situation with John.
Once I have read all the documentation I assume the matter will be clear.

In US English, however, it is more common to use the Present Simple in the same kind of sentence:

As soon as we hear the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I will not contact the client until I receive your instructions.

WRONG
As soon as we will hear the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I won’t contact the client until I will receive your instructions.

 

If we talk about something that happened before something else happened, we do NOT use the Present Perfect:

WRONG
During the inspection it was found that the provision for an average 5-day working week has been violated.

RIGHT
During the inspection it was found that the provision for an average 5-day working week had been violated.

“had been violated” is in the Past Perfect tense – i.e. the inspection is in the past and the violation happened before the inspection.

WRONG
The Company has admitted in the course of the proceedings that the boundaries of the tunnel have been measured incorrectly.

RIGHT
The Company has admitted in the course of the proceedings that the boundaries of the tunnel were measured incorrectly.

“were measured” is in the Past Simple tense ­– i.e. the proceedings are ongoing (we know this because “has admitted” is the Present Perfect, which expresses action that continues up to the present time) and the incorrect measurements were made before the proceedings.

 

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When to use “a” and when to use “an”

We say “an old man” but “a young child”. What is the rule for using “a” and “an”?

The rule is that we use “a” before a consonant sound and “an” before a vowel sound. Note that it’s the sound that matters, not the letter the word begins with.

Examples:

a desk an old desk
a new office an office
a task an impossible task
a year an ear
a holiday an hour
a university an uncle

Words that begin with “h” or “u” can sometimes be confusing, but you should stick to the above rule.

We say “an hour” because we pronounce “hour” without the h-sound. Similarly we say “an honourable person” because “honourable” is pronounced “onrable”.

In British English the word “herb” is pronounced with the h-sound – so we say “a herb”, but Americans tend to pronounce it as “erb”, so they write “an herb”.

One area of debate is how to use the word “historic”. Do we say “an historic achievement” or “a historic achievement”? On Google “an historic achievement” gets over 94,000 results, while “a historic achievement” gets just over 80,000 results – so, on that measure it seems “an historic…” wins – even though we usually pronounce the h-sound.

We use “a” with words like “university”, “utopia” and “European” because, although they start with a vowel, they are pronounced with a consonant sound – “you-niversity”, “you-topia”, “your-opean”.

But words like “uncle” and “onion” start with a vowel sound, so we say “an uncle”, “an onion”.

But the word “one” is pronounced “wun”. So it takes “a”. For example, “a one-track mind”.

Abbreviations and acronyms also take “a” or “an” depending on their pronunciation – so we say “a NATO member”, but “an MBA” – where NATO is pronounced “nayto” and MBA is pronounced “em-bee-ay”.

 

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How to translate “nie później niż w ciągu”

I often see the literal translation of this phrase – not later than within. This is always wrong.

Here’s an example:

POLISH
Płatności należy dokonać nie później niż w ciągu pięciu dni od daty otrzymania niniejszego pisma.

WRONG
The payment must be made no later than within five days from the date of receipt of this letter.

RIGHT
1.
The payment must be made no later than five days after the date of receipt of this letter.
2.
The payment must be made within five days of the date of receipt of this letter.

Not / no later than” can only be used to refer to a point in time. So sentence 1 above refers to a day five days after the date of receipt of the letter.

Within” can only be used to refer to a period of time. So sentence 2 refers to the period of five days that starts on the date of receipt of the letter.

You simply cannot say “no later than within” – in English. You cannot mix periods of time with points in time. It is logically incorrect.

And I wonder – is nie później niż w ciągu actually correct in Polish? Isn’t it logically incorrect in Polish too? Why not use the phrase below instead?

Płatności należy dokonać w ciągu pięciu dni od daty otrzymania niniejszego pisma.

Here are some more examples with their correct translations.

Note the patterns “no later than … after” and “within … of”.

Posiedzenie komitetu zostanie zwołane nie później niż w ciągu pierwszego półrocza 2018 roku.
The committee meeting must be held within the first half of 2018.

Zawiadomienia dokonuje się nie później niż w ciągu trzydziestu dni od daty wydania decyzji.
The notification must be made within 30 days of the date of the decision.
The notification must be made no later than 30 days after the date of the decision.

W każdym przypadku, pierwszej odpowiedzi należy udzielić nie później niż w ciągu 15 dni roboczych od otrzymania zapytania.
In any case, the first answer should be provided no later than 15 working days after receipt of the inquiry.
In any case, the first answer should be provided within 15 working days of receipt of the inquiry.

Pierwszy wlew dożylny jest podawany jak najszybciej po zdarzeniu, nie później niż w ciągu 6 godzin.
The first intravenous infusion is given as soon as possible after the incident, and no later than 6 hours after it happened.

Środki na rzecz wycofania z rynku wchodzą w życie bezzwłocznie i są wdrażane jak najszybciej, jednak nie później niż w ciągu dwóch tygodni od stwierdzenia problemu dotyczącego zgodności.
The withdrawal measures come into force without delay and must be implemented as soon as possible, and in any event not later than two weeks after the compliance problem has been identified.

 

 

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