One thing that leaves a lot of non-South Africans at a loss is trying to work out what a South African means when he says he will do something now.

You see, South African English has several similar phrases that mean somewhat different things: now, just now, now now, right now might look identical but are not.

So, as a service to mankind, here is what these phrases really mean.

  • Right now – it will happen immediately
  • Just now – it will happen sometime in the nearish future, but not right now. Anywhere from half an hour to two hours from now.
  • Now now – it will happen sometime in the very near future, so sooner than just now, but later than right now
  • Now – this could indicate any of the above

Hope that makes clear what we South Africans mean, so when we will see you just now, you shouldn’t quite open those beers yet, expecting the doorbell to ring any second.