• Rachel: I am giving Sophie the iPhone for her birthday. What (you / give) her?
  • Fiona: I will probably get her a new purse. She keeps losing money from her old one.

The answer is "What are you giving her?"

Can I use here will?(What will you give her?)

Also I wonder why is Fiona using Present continuous while she doesn't know if Rachel has thought about the bday gift at all? Is she asking this question from her point of view(thinks that Rachel must have already planned)?


2 Answers 2


Lovely the way we can see here how English can use a range of tenses, all for something in the future. After all, Rachel is presumably not giving her the iPhone right at the moment she's speaking.

In situations like this, people will use the present continuous to refer to things in the future where they have decided what they are doing, I think. It doesn't apply to all verbs, but only those where the action is conceptually happening for longer than the physical action takes. People think of the gift-giving process as starting when they buy the gift, if not earlier. It's quite hard to think about where the limits of such constructions fall.

"What are you giving her" here agrees with the previous sentence, but it would be completely natural to mix it with other appropriate tenses/aspects. What will you be giving her, what will you give her, or what are you going to give her would actually all work.

English plays fast and loose with tenses sometimes, including the 'historical present' (which some people consider awful). It can take a long time to be confident about them, because I don't think anyone's come up with a comprehensible set of consistent rules to describe actual usage.

  • Thanks a lot. I had choice only between "will" or "Present Continuous" forms... That's why, I got confused. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 12:29
  • 2
    @ანოანო The subtle nuances are these (the conclusion given by this answer nonetheless remains): What will you give her? is talking strictly about the future with perhaps a soupcon of will (as in "willing") involved. What are you giving her? assumes a prearranged situation (as observed in the answer), while What are you going to give her? talks about intention (the figurative meaning of the literal action of going, being on your way, in order to do something), but is often informally interchangeable with will give. What will you be giving her? is the politest version, in my view.
    – user3395
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:25

I think it will be better if you use what are you going to give her? . it is in present tense but asking in a future of event perspective.

  • As I know, present continuous for future means arranged, planned future. Why should I ask you in such a way, if I don't have information whether you have planned or not anything at all? Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 16:40

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