In my test work, I had such a question:

Children who (to come) to the cinema tomorrow
[pick a form of the verb "to come" to make a correct phrase]

Which tense is right to use, the Future Simple or the Present Progressive? I mean, should I use will after who? Will it be right if I use the Future tense, or is it better to use the Present progressive?

As I remember, our teacher explained to us that if we have WHO in the sentence, we can't use the Future tense; it's better to use progressive one.

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    I am pretty sure the presence of "who" has nothing to do with the tense choice. Although "Who's coming ..." is much much better than "Who will come...", the latter is also technically correct but has a different meaning which I'm struggling to express. Therefore, I think this is an interesting question and I'd urge people to try to answer it rather than hastily close it. – Armen Ծիրունյան Apr 12 '15 at 12:08
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    @tchrist: Do you honestly believe this question is answered in the "duplicate" you linked? – Armen Ծիրունյան Apr 12 '15 at 12:10
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    @tchrist Why does that post deal with tenses in subordinate clauses? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 12 '15 at 12:37
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    @ArmenԾիրունյան The presence of "who" might have something to do with which tense we choose :) This is because we are more likely to just use the present tense if this is a subordinate clause. For example, if we compare "Children will come to the class tomorrow" and "Children who come to the class tomorrow, will have to use their own computers", the second only uses the present in the subordinate clause. So, in a way, the fact we might use the present simple in the first place is because of the who, it seems. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 12 '15 at 12:43
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    This question belongs on English Language Learners – Kris Apr 12 '15 at 13:46

I think that a comma is mandatory after address, thus the two respective sentences would turn to be:

Children, who is going to come to the cinema tomorrow?

which is a question about future happening/events, but also about past decisions (who are the children who have already decided/planned to come). The latter is related to using "going to" for planned activities.

Children, who will come to the cinema tomorrow?

This is more about children's will/intent to come.

See, e.g.

The Song of Taliesin: Tales from King Arthur's Bard - Page 71 John Matthews - 2001

"Who will come with me to fetch this thing?" Because I was among those who said they would go, I am able to tell this story.


Boys' Book of Frontier Fighters- Page 39 Edwin Legrand Sabin - 1919

"Who will go with me to rescue Burr Harrison?" he thundered. The voices of the women were stilled; the men hesitated, looking one upon another. The Indians evidently were waiting for just such a try.


See this forum discussion and this one.

You may want to see this famous grammar on the matter:

A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles: Volume 4. Syntax (third ... By Otto Jespersen

It excels on historical examples and considerations.

Also, perhaps the best contemporary presentation of English tenses:

The Grammar of the English Tense System: A Comprehensive Analysis, Volume 1 By Renaat Declerck, Susan Reed, Bert Cappelle

The links send you to relevant pages in each reference.

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  • If they're asking about intent, native speakers are much more likely to say "who wants to come". – Peter Shor Apr 12 '15 at 13:59
  • I am talking about the examples at hand, trying to get the most out of them. – Marius Hancu Apr 12 '15 at 14:01
  • I'll agree that who will is often used for intent. But there is something strange about using "who will" to ask about intent for something that you assume everybody wants to do. – Peter Shor Apr 12 '15 at 14:13
  • Well, I've just added two examples focusing on that. – Marius Hancu Apr 12 '15 at 14:15
  • "Happy morning, Happy day! Who will come With me to play?" is a children's rhyme in a story. I don't think it necessarily is a natural example of grammar. And I agree with the use of "who will come" in your King Arthur example. – Peter Shor Apr 12 '15 at 14:18

"Children, who will come to the cinema tomorrow?" tells us that the teacher is asking the children, who will go to the cinema the next day.

"Children who are coming to the cinema tomorrow,.." is simply addressing the children going to the cinema the next day.

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