Let's say, Someone asks me

Are you having dinner right now?

But right now I have an important call to make, so I say

Not right now but I will have it in 4-5 minutes.

Even though I say 4-5 minutes, I don't mean it literally. I want to say that I have got something to do but it would hardly take any time, so even though It is not right now per se but not after very long time also.

What world can I use to say equivalent of 4-5 minutes?


9 Answers 9


In US English (I cannot speak to British) the equivalent would be just about to:

Q: Have you had dinner yet?
A: Yes, I've just finished it.

Q: Are you having dinner right now?
A: No, but I'm just about to.

  • 1
    This is completely normal in British English also.
    – PLL
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 21:34

There are the idioms

just a minute, just a second, or just a moment
which mean to wait a short period of time

Q: Are you having dinner right now?
A: No, It'll be ready in a minute. (not a literal minute, but a brief period of time)

Q: Are you ready for dinner now? A: No, but I will be in just a moment.

"Let's get in the car."
"Just a sec, I forgot the tickets." (second is often shortened to sec in this spoken phrase)


You'd have to say very soon, and you'd normally use it with a progressive construction:

Not right now, but I'll be having it very soon.

Shortly is an alternative, but that may be a feature only of British English, and it may not always be appropriate.

  • 3
    Americans understand and use shortly (although I wouldn't be surprised if it were more common in the U.K.). Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 18:18
  • 1
    @Peter Shor. Doesn't AmEng also use momentarily to mean 'in the very near future'? Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 18:25
  • 3
    Yes, momentarily also works in AmEng (although you may get grammar pedants telling you it's wrong). Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 18:26
  • 2
    If we're to believe this NGram for be here shortly, it would seem Americans use the term about as often as Brits. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 18:44

Adjective imminent (“about to happen, occur, or take place very soon”) may serve, or its adverbial form imminently (“In an imminent manner”). But be careful not to confuse imminent with eminent (“noteworthy, remarkable, great; distinguished, important, noteworthy”) or with immanent (“Naturally part of something; existing throughout and within something; inherent; integral; intrinsic; indwelling”).

If you don't mind a little confusion and ambiguity, you can use presently in its sense “Before long; soon”. It also has a sense “At the present time; now; currently”, so its meaning is context sensitive. For example, “Not right now, but presently” means “Not right now, but soon”, while “Not right now, but presently, presently” means “When I get good and ready”.

  • I understand presently to be a lot further off than imminently, immediately, very soon, or shortly, although not as far off as eventually. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 18:21
  • I'm having trouble comprehending your last sentence. What does this mean? while “Not right now, but presently, presently” means “When I get good and ready”. The two "presently"s next to each other doesn't make any sense to me.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 19:11
  • @WendiKidd, repeating a word like that can mean the speaker is chiding the questioner; ie, is saying “Hold your horses, don't be in such a rush”. This is so when it's spoken in a certain tone of voice; but I agree that in general and without context it might not make sense to a reader. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 19:41

You can use shortly to describe the near future

Q: Are you having dinner right now?
A: I'll have dinner shortly.


As a British English speaker the most natural way for me to specify "the next few minutes" is to use "in a minute" (if you wanted to be specific and you literally meant one minute later you would say "in one minute").


"I'll tidy my room in a minute"

"Your dinner will be on the table in a minute"

"I'll be with you in a minute"

You can also use "momentarily" in this context, especially in a formal situation.

"Dr Anderson will be with you momentarily" would be typical usage.


The word, almost, when applied to a future event, conveys that you will be doing it soon.

I'm almost ready for dinner... I just have to finish writing this e-mail.


Here’s how I would answer your question:

“Yes, I’m just about to have my dinner.”

“Not yet, but soon.”

“Maybe later.”

“Right after I finish my work.


Short answer: I just is to past as I'm about to is to future.

Q: Have you had dinner yet?
A: Yes, I just finished it.

Q: Are you having dinner right now?
A: No, but I'm about to.

You can also say "No, but I will in a little bit." or "No, but I will in a few minutes."

  • This is merely a combination of two previous answers. Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 18:08
  • No, other answers say "I've just" instead of "I just" and "I'm just about" instead of "I'm about". Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 0:26

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