What is the difference between the following sentences?

  1. Are you coming tonight?
  2. Will you come tonight?

"Are you coming tonight?" or "Are you going to come tonight?" both are questions that one asks when wanting to know whether the person is going to come over tonight. It is not a request like "Will you come tonight?" "Will you come tonight?" is what I would ask if I were inviting you to my house or to dinner or whatever tonight. "Are you coming tonight?" is not an invitation; it is a simple question. I don't know whether you're coming tonight; I'm not inviting you necessarily, but you may be swinging by to see me. In essence, the first one is a simple question regarding the future whereas the second one is a request, i.e. I'm inviting you. Here are two examples:

"Are you going to shut up now?" (I'm curious as to whether you are going to shut up.)

"Will you shut up now?" (I'm requesting that you shut up. I'm probably really angry with you. You are making a lot of noise and interrupting me.)

  • 'Can/Could you come tonight?' sounds more like invitation than 'Will you come tonight?'. I feel 'Will you be here tonight?' is the same as 'Are you going to be here tonight?'. I'm not quite sure, and after all I'm still a learner.
    – dan
    Nov 29 '17 at 4:41
  • No, I'm a native speaker. It's more formal and kinder to say "Would you come tonight?" as the request, but "Will you come tonight?" is a request and definitely differs from "Are you going to be here tonight?" or "Are you coming tonight?" The two that start with "Are" are simple questions that I want you to answer; "Will you come tonight?" is a request: "Will you join us for dinner tonight? We can talk about old times then. What do you say? Is it a dinner date?"
    – Nick
    Nov 29 '17 at 5:13
  • You can say, "Can/Could you come tonight?" but this depends on context because "Can/Could you come tonight?" can also be simply my asking whether you are able to make it tonight rather my inviting you to come: "Can you still make it for dinner tonight? or is there just too much snow to drive this far?"
    – Nick
    Nov 29 '17 at 5:28
  • "Hey, John, are you still coming tonight (or going to come tonight)? I know it's snowing out right now and the roads are icy, but Jane and I want to know whether we should expect you tonight." versus, "Hey, John, will/would you come to/for dinner tonight? Jane and I would really appreciate it if you would be so kind enough to show."
    – Nick
    Nov 29 '17 at 5:34
  • Yes, that doesn't mean every question that starts with "Will" or even "Will you" is a request: "Will I still have time?" is the same as "Am I going to still have time?" "Will you help me?" could be a request or it can mean "Are you going to help me?" It just depends on context.However, when requesting that someone come to one's house or somewhere, "Will" is the request. The way it is usually said to separate these two meanings is that "Will you be helping me?" is the simple question and the request is "Will you help me?"
    – Nick
    Nov 29 '17 at 16:45

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