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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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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
"Right now" is more prevalent in American english than in British. It seems to follow a trend of "why use one word when two will do?". Another example is "next up" rather than "next". In Britain we would tend to say "at present".
"Right now" is endemic in modern speech. Now is too short a word to be emphasised effectively. Other examples are "right here" and "right there". It seems that "now" is not soon enough in today's "now" society. I'm just waiting to hear "right now, right now".
Right now, as it has become popular in street slang, simply adds emphasis to the preceding verbiage, as in, Are you kidding me right now? It implies nothing relating to past nor future.