What have you been up to lately?

Can 'lately' be replaced by 'recently' because with lately, it makes me feel that the sentence means what someone is doing till late night Isn't it? Or to make that meaning, replacing 'to' with 'too' will work?

This sentence is ambiguous to me. If someone is up, it also means awaken, doesn't it?


2 Answers 2


It can be interpreted literally or figuratively.

  • Literally it means "what activities have you participated in recently". A reply might be, "I've started editing that nonfiction book at work and moved to a new apartment."

  • Figuratively it means "I have not seen you in some time, and am curious about your life since I met you last" and could be answered the same way.

  • 4
    These are both figurative interpretations, based on context. One needs to be careful in the use of "literally" and "figuratively". A literal reading would consider "up" to mean a direction, and a very literal-speaking mathematician or logician might reply (half jokingly), "Five foot ten inches". Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 23:53

As far as I can tell, the word "lately" always means "recently," and never "in a late manner" (as you would guess from the spelling). Thus, "I have to work late tonight." (Not "lately").

Warning: this describes American English usage and may be different in British English, where, according to many users here, even in informal spoken language, the distinction between adverbs and adjectives is kept more carefully.

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