I asked this question on a different site but I didn't get an answer. Could you tell me what use of present simple this is?

They come to dinner tonight.

Is this a situation that often or regularly happen or is it a part of a scheduled event?

I think I could use 'they are coming,' 'they are going to come,' 'they will come' too, but not 'they will be coming' if I am right. Some online test are really confusing.

  • That’s vaguely ungrammatical as worded.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 20:44
  • 3
    Nah, not ungrammatical. Just a bit unusual to use present tense to refer to present time; mostly it's used Generically -- They come to dinner most Saturday nights. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 20:59
  • It could be a (single) future, as in Tonight we feast, tomorrow we die. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 22:31
  • In the penultimate sentence of your question, don't you mean "but not 'they come to'"? Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


‘They come to dinner tonight’, ‘They are coming to dinner tonight’, ‘They are going to come to dinner tonight’, ‘They will come to dinner tonight’ and ‘They will be coming to dinner tonight’ are all ways that English has of expressing the future and they are all grammatical. However, not all are equally likely as statements about people coming to dinner. The choice will depend on the situation, the speakers and what has gone on before in the conversation.


This phrasing would be awkward as a simply informative statement. If the speaker is emphasizing "tonight", as opposed to a later date, the present simple is less jarring. Imagine the sentence preceded by "No, ".

In written form, "They are coming to dinner tonight" is a more palatable wording, but does not actually change the meaning or accuracy of the question.

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