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Talking about the future

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


Talking about the future 2


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.


Hello Saqib,

We use a present form after time words like 'after' and 'before', so the correct form would be 'After she finishes her degree, she intends to work in an office'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
which one is stronger if both are correct?
They are coming to see us tomorrow.
They will be coming to see us tomorrow.
Thank you.

Hello Lal,

I guess by 'stronger' you mean expressing more certainty that the event will take place. If so, I would say the first (are coming) is stronger. It assumes that the meeting/visit is fixed and not likely to change. The second (will be coming) is more an expectation or prediction of something that is in the normal course of events: they'll be coming to see us tomorrow because they come every Friday.



The LearnEnglish Team

Can I say
Sarah won't go with us. No matter how much we ask her.
Sarah isn't going to go with us. No matter how much we ask her.

Hello Shaban Nafea

Both can be correct but one or the other is better in certain contexts. 'won't' implies that Sarah is unwilling (i.e. does not want) to go. 'isn't going to go' can mean the same thing, but doesn't specifically imply unwillingness; it could be that she is travelling, for example, and so it's impossible for her to go with us.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have a doubt, I have understood that one difference between ''going to'' and ''will'' is that '''going to'' specifies the time when the action will be done, whereas ''will'' doesn't specify the time of the action, therefore it is correct to use the wh-word when with ''going to'' but it wouldn't be right to use it with will,
the sentence: I am going to travel next monday in the afternoon. (specific)
the sentence: I will travel. (not specific with ''when exactly this trip will happen) but although I've seen some examples using when+will in a question, so is it correct to use ''when'' with ''will''? and if so, in which cases it is correct to use when with will?

Hello Grungedoom

I've never heard the rule about 'going to' and 'will' that you describe. It works in many cases, but as you've discovered, not all, because it is indeed correct to use 'will' in questions with 'when', for example.

I think it's better to think of 'going to' as the form we use to speak about a planned action. We probably have an idea of when we will carry out a planned action, though not necessarily.

As described above, 'will' is often used to speak about something we offer or promise to do when speaking with someone. If I was your teacher, for example, I could say 'Could someone turn off the lights after class?' and you could offer or promise to do that by responding 'I will'.

I hope this helps you make more sense of this. I'd encourage you to pay attention to how people speak or write about the future in the readings and listenings in our Skills section -- it can be really useful to analyse these forms in context.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team



Could someone possibly explain the tense used in the following sentence?

The car to be serviced next is the Toyota.

Hello Hayley16

An infinitive can be used after a noun to give a future meaning, but this is a fairly uncommon usage. In this case, 'to be serviced' is a passive infinitive which is used to modify the noun phrase 'the car'. 'next' gives the sentence a near future time reference.

On a different note, it's also possible to use the infinitive after the verb 'be' (e.g. 'The renovations are to be carried out next year') to speak of a plan or arrangement. This usage is quite formal, though.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, i recently encountered a question. A Chinese student said he was asked to choose the correct verb to complete this sentence : If you ____ (go) to museum next month , I’ll go with you.
the choices were : go, are going, will go, have gone.
I said the answer should be, will go, to indicate an intention. Was I right? Because I was also thinking "are going" may also be right to indicate a possible plan.
Please enlighten me.
Much thanks.