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Is there any difference between the two following sentences?

  • We can't connect to Outlook right now.
  • We can't connect to Outlook now.
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Right now. Now. –  MετάEd Feb 5 '13 at 17:04
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4 Answers

Yes. Using right now emphasizes the time and implies that some condition is currently being experienced that prevents the connection but with the expectation that it will be corrected at some point in the future.

We can't connect right now, but hopefully it will be fixed in an hour.

Using just now may imply that some general condition has changed that is not temporal in nature:

You asked me to disconnect that cable, but I can't connect to Outlook now.

or it might be used in the exact same way as right now albeit with perhaps a little less emphasis on this exact moment.

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I don't agree that plain "[not] now" actually implies a non-temporal reason why not. It's just that "[not] right now" very much does imply some temporary obstacle - which by further implication isn't expected to apply at some point in the future. So "not right now" always means "probably/certainly later", whereas "not now" in and of itself says nothing about whether it's because of some recent but permanent change in the situation, or because it's not possible at this exact moment. –  FumbleFingers Feb 5 '13 at 18:38
    
Yes, you are right, One might say, I can't connect now and mean at this time. –  Jim Feb 5 '13 at 21:34
    
A man could say to his "broody" wife "I don't feel like trying for another child right now, dear." Then later that day (having been to the vasectomy clinic) he could say "I can't father a child now". But if she didn't know where he'd been, the wife wouldn't necessarily realise her hopes had in fact been permanently dashed. –  FumbleFingers Feb 5 '13 at 22:15
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Right often adds emphasis, as in ‘I want you to do it right now.’ In your example right now means ‘at exactly the present moment’, but it leaves the reader with the hope that a connection might be possible in the not too distant future.

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Yes - right now is often used as a hedged (ameliorated) form, sounding less abrupt than now in a refusal (a negative construction): 'I'm sorry, I can't come right now.' Strangely, in an imperative construction, it adds bite: 'Do it right now!' –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 5 '13 at 17:57
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Consider the following examples:

  • I want you to do it now.
  • I want you to do it right now.

Both sentences convey the same general meaning. The first adds emphasis to encourage expeditious response.

Now consider:

  • We can connect to the internet now.
  • We can connect to the internet right now.

The first sentence indicates that we can connect at this very moment and leaves open the possibility, if not the likelihood that the connection may be ongoing.

However, the second sentence also indicates immediate access. However, it does not sugest ongoing availability, and may even suggest potential loss of access if not exercised soon.

Similarly:

  • We cannot connect to the internet now.
  • We cannot connect to the internet right now.

The first indicates no present access and perhaps ongoing lack of access. [We cancelled our service.] The status has changed from yes to no.

The second sentence conveys immediate access with no indication of ongoign status, or perhaps the tentativeness of the no status. [I'm not sure how long the power outage will last.]

As in most writing, context will shape the interpretation.

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Yes, right now means at "this exact moment". But "now" gives a longer lapse of time--perhaps in the next hour or so. "Right now" is also a panicked expression whereas "now" gives the feeling of being more relaxed.

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