What are you putting on?

What are the comprehension options I have for this question when it's out of a clear context?

Is it correct to understand it as "what are you up to?"?

Edit: For those who have voted my question to be closed for being "too broad", I'd like to make it clearer than I did before. My question came up exactly because I read this sentence/question isolated on a book as an example for phasal verbs with "on", and it didn't help me at all. So, when I checked on as many dictionaries you can think of, I saw way too many definitions for it, but no one which could be clearly understood when out of context. So, yeah, this is precisely what I want to know, and this is why my question was, again:

What are the comprehension options I have for this question when it's out of a clear context?

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    Absent context it could mean a dozen different things. – Hot Licks Sep 3 '16 at 1:29
  • But my guess, absent context, would be "What are you up to?" It could, however, mean "What will you be doing tomorrow?", "What kind of fake business are you proposing?", and several others. – Hot Licks Sep 3 '16 at 1:58
  • In addition to the previous responses, it seems the question "What are you putting on?" may also be interpreted as asking someone to reveal their intentions. In such an instance your purpose would be to break down a facade. – user194554 Sep 3 '16 at 6:28
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    We do have a meaning-in-context tag, the one for meaning without context is called off-topic close vote. – Helmar Sep 3 '16 at 11:19
  • Out of context I don’t think I’d ever arrive at. “what are you up to?” I’d first come to, “what kind of clothes are you putting on?” and second, “what play will you be performing in?”. – Jim Sep 6 '16 at 5:33

There are two scenarios that spring to mind:

  1. A question is posed by someone (perhaps a wife) to someone else (perhaps her husband) asking what items of clothing he will be wearing to the dinner party they are getting ready to attend at a friend's house; and
  2. A theater-impresario is being asked by an employee about his plans for "putting on" a play or any other live-entertainment at the theater

Otherwise I must say that I have some difficulty in matching the OP's question to his own suggestion, "what are you up to?

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  • It's not a suggestion, Peter Point. It's just something that I wanted to check if it was possible. As you could not get my point, I guess it isn't. – Loureiro Gui Sep 3 '16 at 0:54
  • @Loureiro Gui Point taken. – Peter Point Sep 3 '16 at 0:55
  • Additionally, it might refer to any arrangements or plans that are being made to celebrate an upcoming birthday or welcome home party for a friend or member of the family, as in, " We are putting on a surprise birthday party for him". – Peter Point Sep 3 '16 at 1:04
  • So, if you see someone doing something suspicious, you could approach him and ask either "what are you up to" or "what are you putting on". Or am I wrong? – Loureiro Gui Sep 3 '16 at 1:07
  • @LoureiroGui My initial take on your scenario is that "what are you up to" is a more likely response to seeing someone behaving suspiciously outside a bank, for example. However, if that suspicious person is putting on a disguise or body-armor, I might just as well ask, "what are you putting on?" However, I think that I may be somewhat foolhardy in the case of body-armor. – Peter Point Sep 3 '16 at 1:17

Out of context, I, too, would assume "What are you putting on?" to mean "What are you up to?"

put something on (Phrasal verb)

  1. Assume a particular expression, accent, etc. he put on a lugubrious look

5.1. Behave deceptively: she doesn’t feel she has to put on an act

from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/put

However, note that there are many, many meanings for 'put on' and without context you can't be certain of the speaker/writer's intent. (You'll find many at the ODD link above).

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