Let's suppose I'm gonna ask my collegue whether he or she is working this evening. Could you please explain what is the difference between the two phrases below?

Will you work this evening?

Will you be working this evening?

Which one should I use?

  • 5
    Personally, I'd say: Are you working tonight?
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2021 at 13:41
  • 13
    "Will you work this evening?" sounds like a request to do so. Nov 7, 2021 at 14:01
  • 1
    To this native speaker, "Will you work this evening?" more strongly implies that the addressee has a choice (or had a choice, if the decision has already been made), whereas "Will you be working this evening?" is more likely if someone else (management?) has already made that decision. But perhaps I'm effectively making the same distinction as @Kate above. Nov 7, 2021 at 16:07
  • 4
    To me, the first form is an invitation or request (="Are you prepared to work this evening?"), the second is a question (="Are you intending to work this evening?"). Applies equally to other verbs: "Will you take the dog for a walk?" vs "Will you be taking the dog for a walk"? Nov 8, 2021 at 0:37
  • 1
    I would expect "Will you work this evening" to hear from say, my boss, when working out who is taking the evening shift. "Will you be working this evening" I would expect to hear from a friend who either wants to know whether I'll be free this evening, or someone who would like to see me, this evening, in my place of work.
    – Basya
    Nov 8, 2021 at 12:54

3 Answers 3


When asking about arrangements we usually use the present continuous:

  1. Are you working tonight?

When asking people to make a decision about something in the future we use will:

  1. Will you work tonight?

Example (2) makes it sound as if the listener has a choice over whether they will work. It might be understood as a request by the speaker asking them to work. It depends on the context.

When asking about how someone is going to be spending their time, or when asking what activity someone will be doing at a particular point, we use will be doing. i.e. the future continuous:

  1. Will you be working this evening?

Example (3) is asking whether the OP is going to be spending their time working this evening.

Given the wording of the Original Poster's question, it seems that the most suitable form for their particular query would be (1). Notice that this is the form that the Original Poster actually used in their question:

Let's suppose I'm gonna ask my colleague whether he or she is working this evening ...

  • 1
    A variation on 1/3 is "Are you going to be working tonight?", and is how I would usually ask the question Nov 8, 2021 at 21:04

You should use the second option ("be working").

Will you work tonight? sounds rather rude, because it sounds like you are asking if they are planning on actually doing their job—as if you expect them to be at work, but not doing what they should be doing.

Will you be working tonight? is more polite, because it is simply asking if they will be at work.

Other questions that mean the same thing are:
Will you be at work tonight?
Do you work tonight?
Are you scheduled to work tonight?

  • 2
    "Will you watch the movie tonight?" would not be interpreted as a request to do so (although "Will you watch the movie with me tonight?" or "Will you watch the movie tonight and tell me whether you find the plot as confusing as I did?" are requests). Nov 7, 2021 at 16:19
  • 2
    @Araucaria - why not? I use that sentence all the time.
    – randomhead
    Nov 7, 2021 at 20:22
  • 2
    @Alex I am a native AmE speaker (Midwest, then East Coast) and think nothing of asking "Do you work tonight/tomorrow/this Saturday?" It seems perfectly natural to me.
    – randomhead
    Nov 7, 2021 at 23:03
  • 2
    @Araucaria this is all true, and yet I would consider it very common and well-understood to ask "Do you work tonight?" referring to this singular and specific night.
    – randomhead
    Nov 7, 2021 at 23:04
  • 2
    100% in support of "Do you work tonight?". Also: "Are you on [tonight|this weekend]?", is common. As in "are you on duty?" or "are you on call?". Maybe it's a Midwest thing.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 8, 2021 at 16:19

Will you work this evening?

This could be a request. I want you to work this evening so I want to know if you are willing.

It could also be a question about whether you will do even a little bit of work. If you plan to work, even for 5 minutes, then I need to make sure the office has electricity. Otherwise I can rewire the office tonight.

Will you be working this evening.

This is a question I would ask if I want to know if a person will be spending a lot of time working this evening, and therefor won't be doing much else. "Do you want to go see a movie, or will you be working this evening." "I know you have a lot more to do on your project; will you be working this evening?"

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