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If I understand right, both versions are used in every day life. Please note my explanation when each version is used.

Could you put down the book and listen carefully to what I will say to you? (the phrase is used when the talk wasn't planned before)

Could you put down the book and listen carefully to what I'm saying to you? (the phrase is used when the talk was planned before or it has already started)

I guess my previous explanation was correct. What about the next one? When is it used?

Could you put down the book and listen carefully to what I say to you?

I don't understand how can be used Present Simple ("what I say") here. I saw that version in different books. Is it like a command? Does it work with the question "Could you put down the book and..."?

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    Whether or not the talk was pre-planned makes no difference whatever. Your third version is perfectly idiomatic, but if the speaker wants to stress that they are going to make an important announcement, what I'm about to say or what I'm going to say are more idiomatic than what I will say. Jul 25, 2022 at 14:08
  • @Kate Bunting, I'm not sure I understand the reason of using "what I say" in the mentioned question in terms of grammar.
    – Sergei
    Jul 25, 2022 at 14:34
  • See Jeff's answer. Jul 25, 2022 at 15:43

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First, your claim about the distinction in meaning between the first and second examples is not true.

For some, the one with “will” may express commitment, but there is no distinction between planned and unplanned.

Second, at least in modern American English, the version with “will” is relatively rare. “Will” is seldom used for something imminent. If supper is cooking, you are far more likely to hear

I’m going to eat supper now

or

I’m about to eat supper

rather than

I will eat supper

The latter is not wrong. It will be used for example about something imminent to show strong determination. And it is used all the time with respect to the future if the time indicated is not imminent.

He will eat supper after he arrives in New York

implies that he is not in the Lincoln Tunnel.

Now for your question about the use of the present tense for something that is necessarily in the future.

I want you to listen to what I say

means

I want you to listen to what I’ll say next.

The present in English may include the immediate future.

EDIT: This edit is in response to questions from the OP in the comments.

The present in English is not an instant. Rather, it is a relatively short period.

It is July when I write this.

My son and grandson will visit us in September.

The implication is that, with respect to seeing my son and grandson, more than a month away is considered future by me, the speaker.

It is 10:40 a.m. when I write this.

My son and grandson arrive at noon

The implication is that slightly more than an hour from now is considered part of the present by me, at least in this context.

Imminent and not imminent are subjective judgments by the person speaking or writing. All that can be said is that people use the present tense when they see the time difference to be inconsequential.

I will listen to what he says

The time difference between what he says in the future and what I hear is measured in micro-seconds. Relative to his speaking, my listening is in the period that I deem present.

To sum up, English treats the present as a short period rather than an instant, and “short” is defined relative to a time or a context or both.

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  • I agree; in US English we don't usually use will in the second part of a sentence like that. e.g., "I promise to listen carefully to what he says", not "what he will say."
    – stangdon
    Jul 25, 2022 at 15:10
  • @stangdon In the OP's sentence, that's true but not in all possible worlds. Boy tells father: I promise to listen carefully to what he will say. [to a teacher in school the next week].
    – Lambie
    Jul 25, 2022 at 15:50
  • @Jeff Morrow, Thank you for your answer! I don't understand the following: "It will be used for example about something imminent to show strong determination. And it is used all the time with respect to the future if the time indicated is not imminent." "imminent" & "not imminent"? Could you explain that more clearly, please?
    – Sergei
    Jul 26, 2022 at 12:13

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