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What’s the difference between recientemente and últimamente? Both mean 'recent', but when would you use one over another?

Please give reference to the below examples:

¿Cómo ha estado el clima recientemente? What's has been the weather lately?

¿Ha escuchado algún buen podcast últimamente? Have you heard any good podcasts lately?

Are the words interchangeable?

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Yes, they are pretty much interchangeable (most of the time) to mean the same thing (just as the word recently is a close synonym of lately, see source).

recientemente

  1. adv. Poco tiempo antes. [not long ago]

whereas

últimamente

  1. adv. por último.

  2. adv. Hace poco tiempo, recientemente.

In these phrases, a simple substitution is okay:

He estado recibiendo información en ese sentido ultimamente / recientemente
[ I have been receiving information in that regard lately / recently ]


Also both your examples are fine when applying that substitution:

¿Cómo ha estado el clima recientemente (/ últimamente)? What has been the weather lately?

¿Ha escuchado algún buen podcast últimamente (/ recientmente)? Have you heard any good podcasts lately?

Though there's a nuance when it comes to a singular event. For example

Choqué mi coche recientemente I crashed my car recently

In either language, referring to a single event —not a recurring one— will need recently rather than lately which would not be correct.

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    I cannot say that it is not correct that "In any phrase you could replace one word with the other". However, I would not replace "recientemente" with "últimamente" in some sentences. Mostly when refering to some events of short duration, for example: 'Choqué mi auto últimamente' sounds weird to me, but 'Recientemente choqué mi auto' is ok. Does it depend on the country? – user1420303 Dec 10 '19 at 19:52
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    True, they seem to be have the nuance to that also in Spanish, I updated the response. Many thanks! – ipp Dec 10 '19 at 20:02
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    I'd also add that recientemente sounds a bit formal. In places where one cannot use últimamente I'd just replace it with hace poco. – pablodf76 Dec 10 '19 at 20:38
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I think that "últimamente" implies some comparison with the previous period, whereas "recientemente" just gives us a time reference, which is recent. Also, "últimamente" could be a shorter interval than "recientemente." Examples:

  • Últimamente no se ve muy contenta mi hermana. [The implication is that previously she seemed a perkier.]

  • Ha habido mucha lluvia recientemente. [This doesn't mean necessarily that there was significantly less rain earlier. The sentence just means that recently there was a lot.]

In your examples, I think that últimamente would likely be taken to cover a shorter term than recientemente.

Also, as Pablo said in a comment, "recientemente" can come across as rather formal. However, the adjective "reciente" has less of a formal feel to it, for example:

  • ¿Es un cambio muy reciente?

user2325442 came up with a great example (I was in a car accident/Choqué mi coche). This shows that "últimamente" only works for ongoing actions, whereas "recientemente" can in principle work for ongoing or single point in time actions.

Bottom line, for a conversational tone, the following are recommended:

  • hace poco for a single point of time action

  • últimamente for an ongoing action

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    I had never heard about 'perkier', what does it mean? It seems to be a funny word – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Dec 11 '19 at 7:04
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    @fedorqui - It's a fun one. "Perky" is a bit like "alegre." Es con el alma ligero. – aparente001 Dec 11 '19 at 7:05
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    @fedorqui there is also the useful intransitive verbal form "to perk up" meaning to cheer up. – mdewey Dec 11 '19 at 9:39
  • @mdewey oh, cool! Now I remember seeing perks as a section in job offers, with random items such as food, drinks and other things companies offer for free to employees. Nunca te acostarás sin saber una cosa más, thanks! – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Dec 11 '19 at 9:47
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    @fedorqui - It's a perk (=side benefit) of participation in a language site -- sometimes one learns something about another language. – aparente001 Dec 11 '19 at 20:42

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