Level: intermediate

When we know about the future, we normally use the present tense.

1. We use the present simple for something scheduled:

We have a lesson next Monday.
The train arrives at 6.30 in the morning.
The holidays start next week.
It's my birthday tomorrow.

2. We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements:

I'm playing football tomorrow.
They are coming to see us tomorrow.
We're having a party at Christmas.

3. We use will:

  • when we express beliefs about the future:

It will be a nice day tomorrow.
I think Brazil will win the World Cup.
I'm sure you will enjoy the film.

  • to mean want to or be willing to:

I hope you will come to my party.
George says he will help us.

  • to make offers and promises :

I'll see you tomorrow.
We'll send you an email.

  • to talk about offers and promises:

Tim will be at the meeting.
Mary will help with the cooking.

4. We use be going to:

  • to talk about plans or intentions:

I'm going to drive to work today.
They are going to move to Manchester.

  • to make predictions based on evidence we can see:

Be careful! You are going to fall(= I can see that you might fall.)
Look at those black clouds. I think it's going to rain(= I can see that it will rain.)

5. We use will be with an -ing form for something happening before and after a specific time in the future:

I'll be working at eight o'clock. Can you come later?
They'll be waiting for you when you arrive.

6. We can use will be with an -ing form instead of the present continuous or be going to when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions:

They'll be coming to see us next week.
I'll be driving to work tomorrow.

7. We often use verbs like would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect to talk about the future:

What are you going to do next year? I'd like to go to university.
We plan to go to France for our holidays.
George wants to buy a new car.

8. We use modals may, might and could when we are not sure about the future:

I might stay at home tonight or I might go to the cinema.
We could see Mary at the meeting. She sometimes goes.

9. We can use should if we think there's a good chance of something happening:

We should be home in time for tea.
The game should be over by eight o'clock.

Talking about the future 1

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Talking about the future 2

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The future in time clauses and if-clauses 

In time clauses with words like when, after, until we often use present tense forms to talk about the future:

I'll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

In clauses with if we often use present tense forms to talk about the future:

We won't be able to go out if it is raining.
If Barcelona lose tomorrow, they will be champions.

 

Be careful!
We do not normally use will in time clauses and if-clauses:

I'll come home when I finish work. (NOT will finish work)
We won’t be able to go out if it rains(NOT will rain)

but we can use will if it means want to or be willing to:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

Comments

Hello Lal,

You are quite right. The past form is 'looked' and the non-past form is 'look'.

Thank you for pointing this typo out. I have edited the original comment.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Are the following two sentences correct in one it says 'Sunday' and in the second it says 'Sundays' I think both mean the same. I am I correct? If they mean the same why one writes like that.
e.g. Shops in Colombo are closed on Sunday. / Shops in Colombo are closed
on Sundays.
My second question: Can one use present tense on both sides of a 'if' clause? E.g.1. If they mean the same why one writes like that.2. If you meet him, please give this letter.
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hello Lal,

You can say 'on Sunday' or 'on Sundays'. The first can mean only one day ('this Sunday') or can have a general meaning; the second always has a general meaning.

In your example you have a present form in the first clause ('meet') but an imperative form in the second ('give'). It is fine to use an imperative form like this as a way of giving instructions or commands to someone.

You can use two present forms when you are making a statement which is always or typically true. For example:

If you don't water plants, they die.

If the sun shines then more people use bicycles.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir I have I very simple doubt about tense .One student asked me that can we say future tense or only the future time.so I am confused.plz help me . If we say future tense it will be wrong

Hello Csahoo,

'Future time' is straightforward: it is any time which has not yet come.

Strictly, 'tense' refers to a change in the form of the verb and in English we have only two grammatical tenses: past (e.g. 'looked') and present or non-past (e.g. 'look').

We talk about future time with a range of devices. Sometimes people call will + verb the 'future tense' but this is not correct, grammatically speaking. 'Will' is a modal verb like 'should' or 'can', not a tense.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I don't understand the difference between:

"I'm playing football tonight" and "I'm going to play football tonight"
"I'm visiting friends tomorrow" or "I'm going to visit friends tomorrow"
"I'll be rich one day!" or "I'm going to be rich one day!"

Hi Mbazarov,

The present continuous implies that your plan is more arranged in some way than using 'going to'. For example, in your first sentences, 'I'm playing' suggests that you've already spoken with your friends and know when and where you are going to meet. 'I'm going to play' could mean the same thing, but focuses more on your intention; it could be that you just recently realised that you can play tonight because, for example, the meeting you had at work has been cancelled.

The same idea is true for your second sentences.

As for the third sentences, using 'going to' could express your firm determination to be rich more than 'will', but otherwise, in most contexts, there'd be little difference.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I have seen both following sentences and I dont know which is correct,and I appreciate if you can help me with this:

1.My mom is going to be 50 next month.
2.My mom will be 50 next month.

thx

Hello Mohsen.k77,

Both of these sentences are correct and there is no real difference in meaning here. In some contexts, where the speaker wants to speak about something she plans to do, for example, 'going to' would be the best form. But here the mother's age next month is a fact so there is no real difference.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir,
you mean we can use be going to to talk about facts too or age is an exception? if we can use it for all facts could you please give me some more examples?

sorry taking your time

best regards
Mohsen

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