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A: Did you see your kids?

B: No.

A: When are you? / When are you going to? / When are you going to see them?

Do I need the whole sentence here or could it be shortened? What would sound idiomatic?

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The second two choices are okay. The first is not, but not because it's too short.

There are two ways of talking about future tense in English (and some other languages): to actually use the future tense of the verb or to use the present tense of "to be" with "going to" (or some other phrases), like "I am going to ___" or "You are going to ___."

The verb here is "see." The future tense needs the helping verb "will":

You will see them.

The example has chosen the "going to" version:

You are going to see them.

We can shorten by dropping the main verb and object when they have just been stated:

I haven't seen them.
When are you going to? [see them]

But if we drop "going to," we turn the helping verb "are" (second person of to be) into the main verb, and it doesn't make sense any more.

BUUUUT you can get just as short a sentence by using the future tense instead of "going to":

I haven't seen them.
When will you?

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  • I’d like to add on that we use “will you” in the last example there because you have to ask about the future. Since they haven’t seen their kids in the past, you should be using future tense when asking about it again. “Going to” serves to indicate future tense as well. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 11:49

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