Given that 'what gives?' is used to comment on something gone wrong, annoying, or in general negatively surprising, is it correct or idiomatic usage to say/write

done X, let's see what gives

to suggest X will likely have negative impact?

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    It could be correct in a narrow context. You've given us none. – Hot Licks Sep 22 '17 at 12:37
  • @HotLicks To me the eligible context seems rather wide: every action in any context that could possibly result in more or less mild disaster/unwanted repercussions. If this assumption is incorrect, my question was intended to get clarification of exactly this, please be so kind as to elaborate in an answer, which narrow class of actions would qualify. – Tom Regner Sep 22 '17 at 12:53
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    Gives could mean "changes" or "breaks", I think, in this context. The first is neutral and the second negative. – Max Williams Sep 22 '17 at 13:40

You could say:

I was trying to move this rock using a branch, but it broke. Now I've found a thicker branch, let's see what gives.

Or, with a different (idiomatic) meaning, you could say:

I replaced the light bulb, but the lamp still isn't working. Let's see what gives.


"What gives?" as idiomatic is a little bit dated -- it's not something I hear as much now as I did in the 90s-00's. Perhaps it is a regionalism currently-- I'd be interesting to hear from someone who had heard it more recently.

It also, in my experience, depends a whole lot on dramatic inflection and I can't say I've heard it in any context other than independently -- "what gives!?". It's a fairly accusatory statement, as well, so "seeing what gives" seems a little odd to me. If you're saying "what gives!?" you are indignant about something that's going wrong, not curious about what's going wrong.

I think if you said "let's see what gives" it would be fairly awkward and not immediately understood by the other person.

"Let's see what's up" colloquially for 'let's see what's going on' with an inference that there's something wrong sounds a lot more natural to me. What's up is a closer sibling to "what's happening" than "what gives" in my experience, though I realize some dictionaries define them as synonyms.

I can't offer any relevant article, but a resource other than my intuition as a native speaker would be to google "see what gives" and "see what's up" -- the results for the latter are a lot more indicative of frequent usage, and your post is one of the top hits for "see what gives" so that could tell you something!

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    This 1969 magazine has a "slang from 20 years ago" section which gives an example conversation: "School has been dismissed for the day. Jim and Kathy meet outside Jim's homeroom. Jim: Hi, Kathy! Howzit? Kathy: Hi, Jim. Say, what gives in your class these days? Jeepers, I never saw...". books.google.com/… So apparently people already thought it was dated in 1969. – DavePhD Sep 22 '17 at 14:01
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    @DavePhD that is fantastic!! – Michelle C. Funk Sep 23 '17 at 18:58

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