Both translate as now. How does one decide which one to use in which context? My understanding is that ahora is more like "right now, at this moment" whereas actualmente has a broader sense such as "during these times" or "nowadays." Is my understanding correct or even close? Consider the following sentences:

  1. I'll home any time now.
  2. She wanted to go out right now.
  3. The country is at war with its neighbor now.
  4. It will be four years now (since I last saw her).
  5. Music is more ubiquitous now than it was a century ago.

I think we will use ahora with 1 and 2 and actualmente with the rest (3, 4, and 5). Am I right?

  • 1
    I think that, independently of the language you're speaking, it all depends on the amplitude that occurs in the context of the idea of "nowadays". May be synonymous or not.
    – Rodrigo
    Dec 18 '14 at 15:45

I think you are completely right that actualmente translates better as "nowadays" than "now".

Regarding the examples I think that you are almost right but number four should use ahora.

It will be four years now (since I last saw her). Hará ahora cuatro años (que no la veo o desde la última vez que la vi).

First two should use ahora and three and five are better suited for actualmente but you could use ahora too, and convey the same meaning. Take into account that both actualmente and ahora mean

En el tiempo presente.

  • Thanks for confirming my intuition. This is one of those cases where I don't know the exact rules and let my hunches guide me instead. Should be a good sign as far as my Spanish learning goes, I guess. ;)
    – TheLearner
    Dec 18 '14 at 15:24
  • How would you use ahora in example 1? Even though I can't understand it completely because there is at least one word missing, I would usually translate any time now as en cualquier momento.
    – Gorpik
    Dec 18 '14 at 15:58
  • 2
    @Gorpik, "Llegaré a casa ahora mismo"?. I think that "any time now" means "ya mismo; ahora mismo; enseguida".
    – Diego
    Dec 18 '14 at 16:07
  • OK, that's a fair translation.
    – Gorpik
    Dec 19 '14 at 8:02

For me actualmente fits better in "nowadays".

For your sentences keep in mind the use of "por el momento" or "en este instante".


I'll be/get home any time now. (Estaré en casa en instantes)

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