现在(xiànzài) vs 最近(zuìjìn)

I am sure that you think the meaning of ‘最近'(zuì jìn) and ‘现在'(xiànzài) are as follows:

「现在」– now
「最近」– recently

In fact, the meaning of these two words are subtle, ‘现在’ doesn’t just mean ‘now’, it also has the meaning of ‘currently’ or ‘at the present’. As for ‘最近’, what exactly the time period does it refer to? I can tell you that even native speakers, sometimes, can get confused.

 

Let’s have a look at some examples:

(1)

最近我去北京玩了两天 
zuì jìn wǒ qù Běijīng wán le liǎngtiān

This sentence means: ‘I went to Beijing for several days recently.’ ‘最近’ refers to the time period before the speaker is talking. It is noticeable that ‘最近’ cannot be replaced with ‘现在’ in this sentence.

(2)

最近我要去北京玩两天
zuì jìn wǒ yào qù Běijīng wán liǎngtiān

 

Meaning: I will go to Beijing for several days soon. ‘最近’ refers to the time period after the speaker is talking.

In this sentence, ‘最近’ can be taken over from ‘现在’ here, but the meaning will be totally changed.

(3)

现在我要去北京玩两天
xiànzài wǒ yào qù Běijīng wán liǎngtiān

It means ‘I am going to Beijing for several days right now.‘ – I set off right now

 

Let’s see another example:

(4)

现在我要去上海开会 
Xiànzài wǒ yào qù Shànghǎi kāihuì

 

In this sentence, ‘最近’ can be changed to ‘现在‘, but the meaning is also changed. If you say ‘最近’, it means ‘I will go to Shanghai in the next a few days‘, but not at the moment when you speak. If you change it to ‘现在'(xiànzài), it means ‘I go to Shanghai right now‘.

‘现在'(xiànzài) refers to the moment when you speak, let’s see this sentence.

(5)

现在是中午十二点钟 
xiànzài shì zhōngwǔ shíèr diǎnzhōng

 

This sentence means ‘Now it is 12 o’clock.’ Here, ‘现在'(xiànzài) cannot be replaced with ‘最近'(zuì jìn).

‘现在'(xiànzài) can also refer to the period of time before or after speaking, either long or short.

 

(6)

现在的年轻人生活真是幸福 
xiànzài de niánqīng rén shēnghuó zhēn shì xìngfú

 

Meaning: the life of nowaday’s young people is really happy.

 

To summarise
‘最近’ refers to the short period of time before talking or after talking
‘现在’ refers to the moment when you are taking or the period of time before speaking, either long or short.

 

Quiz:
Please fill in the blanks with ‘最近’ or ‘现在’ in the following sentences
1. 过去这个地方是电影院,(      ) 改成体育馆了。
2. (        ) 他身体有点不太舒服。
3. 这种老式的电脑 (       ) 已经很难见到了。

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john

Ni hao Ling, may I assist with the above subject. The English sentence “I will go to Beijing for several days recently” has an incorrect use of tense. This is because in English, the word “recently” can only apply to events which have already happened, ie, events in the past. If one says in English “I will go to Beijing for several days”, it is understood that this is a future event. If you say in English “I went to Beijing for several days”, it is understood this is a past event and you can add the word “recently” so… Read more »