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OK, so if the present continuous is supposed to denote an action that is happening RIGHT NOW, why to we also use it to denote the FUTURE, as in "What are you doing this weekend?" or "I am having a barbeque on Friday". Also, it seems we also use the present simple to denote future time, as in "I have a meeting tommorrow at 9:00 am". So, how in the world should a student understand when to use the present, present continuous or for that matter future (will or be going to) to denote the future? I sure don't know how to explain it!
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Present continously tense can be used to denote the near future provided the time is mentioned.

I am having a meeting tonight.Emotion: smile
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Typically, "will" is used for decisions made on the spot, while present and present cont. are used for plans already made ("be going to" is nearly the same as present cont., as far as I know).

Present and present cont. require a time to be stated or implied by the context, otherwise they are not future.

A good teaching order is:

1. present, which they probably already know ("I have a date")
2. present with a stated future time ("Tomorrow I have a date")
3. will future ("I will do that tomorrow, honey" - promises)
4. present cont. with stated furture time ("What, now? I am doing that tomorrow" - plans)
5. "be going to" ("I am going to do that tomorrow" vs. "I was going to do that tomorrow")

That's all I know, maybe someone else knows more.

Good Luck.
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The questions would be:

1. Do you really have a date?
2. Do you have a date tomorrow?
3. Will you do that tomorrow, honey?
4. What now? Are you going to do that tomorrow?
5. Are you going to do that tomorrow? Weren't you going to do that tomorrow?

I hope this helps.
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OK, that's pretty good. But there are many cases where you can only use one option. For example, why is it only OK to say "tomorrow I have a date" and not "tomorrow I am having a date" (both are plans already made). As a native speaker, the only one that sounds right to me is the first one, but is there any way a non-native speaker can decide this?
It's like tomorrow I have an appointment with my hairdressers or my dentist. I suppose that when a time is arranged you use the simple present. The same would apply to train timetables.
I forgot to say that you would also say "I have nothing to do tomorrow", wouldn't you? meaning I haven't arranged anything yet.
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"tomorrow I have a date" and not "tomorrow I am having a date"

both sound fine to me, and I'm a native speaker.

"I'm having a meeting tomorrow" - sounds fine too.

English is varied, and nobody uses all of it. Just teach them that both are OK and that they should choose which one they like best.

I have a student who likes to use use the word "dainty" whenever possbile. I used to correct her, but she insisted on using it. So, I looked up the word. Well, she was using the word correctly, and I was essentially trying to teach my prejudice.
Hi~I am a junior in Taiwan.
I think it's right that the present continuous is supposed to denote an action that is happening RIGHT NOW. However, "will" is equal to the phrase " be going to".
For example,
I will do my homework tomorrow. = I am going to do my homework tomorrow.

I give you some examples about the present simple and presenht continuous.
1.They are showing a film calleed Bandit County. --- to show an activity in progress now.
2.The trouble with this place is it's becoming too crowded. --- to show a changing state.
3.What time does the film start? --- to show a scheduled event.
4.Look, she's getting out of that black limousine. --- to show a temporary activity around the time of seaking.
5.TV personalities and film stars often stay there. --- to show a regular or habitual activity.
6.It costs about $10 for adults. --- to show a permanent state.
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