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So I have this task I'm planning to give to my students. It reads "What do you say to your friend in these situations? Use the words given in brackets. Use present continuous (I am doing), going to or will. My problem is the #3 (attachment below).

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It is specifically stated that "you haven't arranged" to hire a car yet, so my understanding is that it is a spontaneous decision you've just made and therefore the answer should be "we will hire a car". And yet, the keys say that the correct answer is "we're going to hire a car".

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But how can this be true if "going to" is reserved for arrangements, which has not been made in this case? If I am wrong and the answer is in fact "we're going to hire a car", then what would the answer be if it was arranged to hire a car at the moment of speaking?

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  • I am not sure what the rule you quote about arrangements is, I only speak the language, I do not know the rules, but going to looks fine to me and I would also have used it in 4 and 5 for what it is worth.
    – mdewey
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 14:44
  • Don't interpret that by arrangement aspect too literally. Sure, if I say Jane is going to be a bridesmaid at my wedding, the implication is we've made all the necessary arrangements to ensure that future does become reality. But You're going to hurt yourself if you're not careful includes no such allusion,. Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 14:49
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    You have decided to hire a car, but you haven't arranged this yet. This doesn't mean that you have suddenly made the decision. My understanding would be that it is part of the plans you agreed on with your friends, though you haven't actually contacted a car hire company yet. Going to seems perfectly natural to me. Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 14:50

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The key here is that the situation is explained as: "You have decided to hire a car". The decision has been made, even if you have not hired the car yet. This means the situation is not about a spontaneous decision, but rather a planned one, so 'going to' fits the bill perfectly.

We're going to hire a car

This has been decided in advance

We'll hire a car

This is a decision taken in the moment (for example based on the question: "But if you're going to different places, how will you get around?").

The above refers to your grammar exercise, which provides (and then tests understanding of) rules to aid students in differentiating between the various ways of expressing the future (hence I referred to the 'you have decided' part).

In general, it is common to have some flexibility when choosing future forms, particularly orally. In a 'real' situation, "We'll hire a car" and "We're going to hire a car" are both fine, and largely depend on the speaker's choice.

EDIT: My answer here is intended to respond to OP's doubts regarding the question/task at hand, which deals with expressing the future in terms of plans/arrangements/spontaneous ideas. It isn't intended to cover all aspects of expressing the future for example probability/likelihood, predictions etc.

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    Yes, but as my comment example You're going to hurt yourself if you're not careful clearly shows, to be going to [do something] doesn't necessarily even imply having an intention, let along having made all the necessary arrangements! Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 14:52
  • You're absolutely right. I intended my answer to remain within the scope of decision/arrangement-making as per the question. I think it's beyond the scope of the answer to provide a full-blown rundown of all the possible uses and permutations of expressing the future.
    – JMB
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 15:36
  • Yes, I should've clarified that both variants sound natural to me as well. What I'm confused about is why the answer is specifically "going to" and not "will". If neither "going to" nor "will" necessarily require an arrangement condition, then what was the point of including such wording in the task? What if it was "we're hiring a car", would this constitute as an arrangement? I might be terribly overthinking all of this, for which I apologize in advance Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 16:03
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    @SvinkaPeppa I assume you're teaching relatively low level students, where EFL textbooks tend to offer rather exhaustive explanations of when and how to use going to and will, which are. in my opinion, a little rigid and don't really cover all situations very well. EFL textbooks at this level teach students to analyse sentiments and apply the logic from textbook rules, which is not how native speakers operate.
    – JMB
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 17:05
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    @JMB Most of them are B2 actually. Again, I'm sorry I failed to make it clear, but I am aware that going to is not just for arrangements. In fact I think I finally understood why the "have not arranged yet" condition was there in the first place - it's to prevent one from putting in we're hiring as the answer, because the I'm doing smth phrase (as explained by R.Murphy whose book I'm using) is the one that requires something to be arranged at the moment of speaking, unlike going to, which does not. Thank you all for participating in relieving me of my confusion Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 18:09

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