Is there a usage difference between 早速 and 今すぐ

I’m trying to understand the differences between 早速 and 今すぐ. They both seem to mean ‘at once’, but is there a difference in context or where they’d be encountered? Which to choose, when? Is one more temporal, and one more urgent? Feeling dumb right now.

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To my knowledge, they’re interchangeable. But 今すぐ has more of a “right away” or “asap” connotation while 早速 is more of a “this instant”. I’m no expert, but this is what I was led to believe.

What’s the difference (in English) between “right away” and “this instant”?


“Right away” is as soon as you can reasonably do so, while “this instant” is drop everything and do it immediately.


If we’re looking at literal translations, 今すぐ is the one that seems closer to ‘this instant’ since is translates as ‘now, right away’. 早速 combines the two characters that mean ‘early’ and ‘fast’. すぐ also has connotations of directness or immediacy in a spatial sense e.g. すぐ隣りに (right beside/next to), which is reflected by its kanji form: 直ぐ, with 直 meaning ‘straight’ (in Mandarin, anyhow), and thus expressing directness. I think すぐ emphasises immediacy, whereas 早速 emphasises speed. That’s what Japanese dictionary definitions seem to suggest. However, すぐ does come up in the definition of 早速, so they are likely nearly interchangeable.

I suspect that the primary difference is that 早速 is more formal. I believe it can be used in business emails. The 大辞林 example sentences seem to include a fair amount of keigo and all seem to involve superior-subordinate, client-service-personnel relationships, whereas すぐ is an everyday word.

今すぐ can only be used if you’re talking about literally right now. As in, the moment you say it.

早速 can be used to refer to any point of time. “As soon as the goods are back in stock, we’ll immediately let you know.” Obviously using 今すぐ would be wrong in this case because the goods aren’t in stock now.

すぐ does indeed have to do with immediacy, but you can’t simply discard the 今. Whether すぐ and 早速 are interchangeable is a topic I won’t get into, but it’s absolutely not the case if you’re talking about 今すぐ.

In terms of tone, sure, maybe this is the case. Again though, “this instant” is very narrowly scoped to now, whereas “right away” has much broader application. You can use it to refer to something in the past, for example; “the shop opened, and right away the salespeople were overwhelmed by the flood of customers”. This sentence is straight-up non-parsing if you substitute “this instant”.


This was all super helpful to think about. Thank you!

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Good illustrative example. I didn’t think of that, and indeed, 今すぐ would sound very wrong in that context.

Thank you for pointing that out, and it does seem I forgot to get back to the question of 今すぐ itself. However, I didn’t intend to ‘simply discard’ 今. As you might have noticed, I started my reply by bringing up the fact that 今 contributes ‘now’ to the literal translation. I even wrote it as ‘now, right away’ in order to express that that would be the full translation, and that 今すぐ is not a monolithic expression. Removing 今 was not something I did because of a lack of awareness of its effect on what the phrase meant, but rather because of a desire to break things down in order to shed some light on the nuances involved. I guess I then got lost along the way. I have to admit that part of that was due to only thinking in the present tense, and not considering sentences which included future implications, which led me to forget to discuss 今. I was, however, hoping that the possibility of using 早速 in formal contexts might be of interest to some people, since (今)すぐ (i.e. either expression) might not be appropriate in all contexts.

I also guess my sentence was poorly phrased. When I used the pronoun ‘they’, I was referring to すぐ and 早速, which had just been mentioned, and not to 今すぐ and 早速. Under no circumstances should they (今すぐ and 早速 ) be considered completely equivalent. Sorry if I caused any confusion.

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Thank you everyone who replied! This makes a lot more sense now.

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That scene was hillarious :smiley: (and not only that. Briliiant movie - I much prefer it to the Star Wars :stuck_out_tongue: )

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