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In Grammar and Vocabulary for First Certificate (Prodromou, 2005), Chapter 2 covers "the future", "be going to", "present continuous", and "present simple". I put three of the End-Of-Chapter questions below with the corresponding back-of-the-book answers. My concern is with Question #1 only. (I wrote #2 and #3 for context.)

Put the verb in brackets into the most suitable form of the future.*

  1. "What ________ you __________ this evening?" (do) 'Nothing.' [Answer: are ... doing]

  2. "Well, _______ we ___________ to that new pizzeria?" (go) [Answer: shall ... go]

  3. In 2004 the Olympic Games _________ in Athens. (take place) [Answer: will take place]

For Question #1, the only answer in the back-of-the-book answer is the present continuous: "What are you doing this evening?" This has effectively ruled-out the possibility of using 'be going to' to complete the sentence. In other words, I think what he is saying is that "What are you going to do this evening?" is incorrect.

Do you think he is right?

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marked as duplicate by oerkelens, FumbleFingers, Josh61, Hellion, tchrist May 8 at 18:25

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2  
What was wrong with editing your original question where you asked exactly the same thing? –  oerkelens May 8 at 8:13
    
I didn't get any answer. So it was edited and I decided to ask it again. I hope it's clearer now. –  Mohammad Nazar May 8 at 8:24
1  
"What are you going to do this evening?" is 'grammatically correct'. And used perhaps nearly as often as "What are you doing this evening?" in the UK at least. "What will you do this evening?" might be chosen in some contexts. "What shall you do this evening?" sounds pompous and old-fashioned in most contexts, but cannot be labelled 'ungrammatical': "You've done well on the assignments I set this morning. Now, what shall you do this evening?" –  Edwin Ashworth May 8 at 8:40
    
@ Edwin Ashworth: I guess now I should thank you for your explanation. I found it quite useful. –  Mohammad Nazar May 8 at 9:07
    
Going to is a colloquial form and its over-use makes it sound quirky. For example, "I am going to go to school" !!! I am going to going to going to going to go now. –  Blessed Geek May 8 at 12:19

1 Answer 1

The first thing to point out is that the prompt asks for "the most suitable form of the future". You should not infer, therefore, that any form other than the given answer is "incorrect".

In fact, both "What are you doing this evening?" and "What are you going to do this evening?" are common ways of expressing such questions about the future. There are, however, some subtle differences in implication between the two forms.

In "What are you doing this evening?" I am asking about your plans. Often, such a question is asked because I would like to suggest you and I do something together, but I first want to check if you already have something arranged.

The question "What are you going to do this evening?" is also about your plans. But it carries less implication that you may have made arrangements, and it would not be commonly used as a preface to suggesting that you or I do something together.

As a further example of the diffence in implication between the two forms, consider: "I'm playing tennis with Jack this evening." This statement implies an arrangement and hence the present continuous is the most suitable form.

Conversely, the present continuous in "?I'm eating pizza for dinner this evening" is somewhat unusual, because the eating of pizza is not in itself an arranged event. It would be preferable to use going to to express an intention with no implication of an arrangement: "I'm going to eat pizza for dinner this evening."

Returning to the original exercise question, the author suggests "What are you doing this evening?" as the most suitable form, possibly because he believes that such a question is more likely to be about arrangements, ("I'm playing tennis with Jack") than intentions ("I'm going to eat pizza and then I'm going watch TV for the rest of the evening").

But both forms are grammatical, and in fact a Google search shows that "What are you going to do this evening?" is three times more common than "What are you doing this evening?"

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Many thanks for your wonderful explanation. –  Mohammad Nazar May 8 at 21:02
    
@MohammadNazar, since this restated version of your question has been closed as a duplicate, I have reposted the text above as an answer to your original question. –  Shoe May 9 at 5:16

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