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In a sentence like

How do you get to the train station?

What would be an appropriate answer (tense wise)? Could you say both of these two:

  • I’ll drive you.
  • I’m going to drive you.

I think both could be correct: the will one if you say it right after you’ve asked the question, and the going to one if it’s planned and you’re having that chat a week before or something.

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You might want to read this tag wiki. English most commonly uses two different ways of putting a verb into the periphrastic future tense, one with a modal and one with a finite form of to be going to, and while these are usually interchangeable, there is some nuance between them. Or can be. –  tchrist Jan 7 '13 at 23:12
    
Seems to me that the question should be "How do I get to the train station?", which can mean one of two things: "Can you tell me how to get to (give me directions to) the train station?" or "How will I get to (what mode of transportation will I use to travel to) the train station?" –  user21497 Jan 7 '13 at 23:27
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2 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

"I'll drive you there" is the normal way this kind offer would be made in response to a mere request for information.

"I'm going to drive you there" is either patronising, forceful, or adding the connotation that this was the plan before 'you' asked the question.

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thanks alot ! sometimes the english language can be quite confusing :o) –  Moritz Jan 7 '13 at 23:12
    
I had to stop and run this through my head to convince myself that you were on to something here, but I think you actually might be. However, it is devilishly subtle, contextually dependent, and in speech at least might well require a bit of phrasal prosody to get it across. Which means one could also intone it in a way where that was not the implication. Hm. –  tchrist Jan 7 '13 at 23:29
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Both are fine in either situation. The tendency in US conversation is to match your interlocutor's form, thus:

How will I get to the train station? ... I'll drive you.
How am I going to get to the train station? ... I'm going to drive you.
How am I getting to the train station? ... I'm driving you.

Both of these tend to arise when planning. How do I get to the train station or How do you get to the train station (this would the impersonal you) will tend to arise when you're asking how to get there right now or very shortly. In this case the answer will tend to be

I can drive you.

Note that I've used tend and emphasized it throughout. None of this is even remotely a "rule" - just somewhat more likely than alternatives.

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There were so many of these will-vs-be-going questions that I finally made a will-be-going tag and a tag wiki for them. Please feel free to hack on it to include stuff I didn’t manage to wedge in there. Thanks. –  tchrist Jan 7 '13 at 23:16
    
@tchrist Cool. I added futurive non-pasts; I thought about adding the corresponding emphatic forms, but ya gotta stop somewhere. –  StoneyB Jan 8 '13 at 0:14
    
People use existing tenses for all kinds of nuances that aren’t always clear from their conjugations. “Tomorrow I get my teeth cleaned.” uses the present to mean the future. Spanish “Eso será Juan” (That will be John) actually expresses probability, like that must/might be John or that’s probably John, even though it is in the inflectional future indicative, not some fancier aspect. I guess we do that in English, too: “That will/would be John” uses future or conditional, but means, well, something else. –  tchrist Jan 8 '13 at 0:19
    
@tchrist "He'll be in San Francisco now, but he's in Albuquerque tomorrow, and I think he was going to be in Dallas on Friday." –  StoneyB Jan 8 '13 at 0:45
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