The future continuous (will be + ‘ing’ form) and the future perfect (will have + past participle) tenses are used to talk about events in the future.

Future continuous

  • Don’t ring at 8 o’clock. I’ll be watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
  • This time tomorrow we’ll be sitting on the beach. I can’t wait!

We use the future continuous to talk about something that will be in progress at or around a time in the future.

  • Don’t phone grandma now, she’ll be having dinner.
  • The kids are very quiet. They’ll be doing something wrong, I know it!

These sentences are not about the future but we can use the future continuous to talk about what we assume is happening at the moment.

Future Perfect

  • Do you think you will have finished it by next Thursday?
  • In 5 years time I’ll have finished university and I’ll be able to earn some money at last.

We use the future perfect to say that something will be finished by a particular time in the future.

We often use the future perfect with ‘by’ or ‘in

  • I think astronauts will have landed on Mars by the year 2020.
  • I’ll have finished in an hour and then you can use the computer.

By’ means ‘not later than a particular time’ and ‘in’ means 'within a period of time’. We don’t know exactly when something will finish.

  • I promise I’ll have done all the work by next Saturday.

We don’t know exactly when he will finish the work – maybe Thursday, maybe Friday – but definitely before Saturday. 

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Dear Kirk,

Thanks a lot for your answer. But I'm afraid I'm still quite confused about that... Were you meaning the Future Continuous can be used interchangeably with other forms like the Present Continuous and 'going to'?
Would you help me get the difference between them if we are talking about the things we've already planned (if there's any)?
e.g. 'I'll be going shopping later. Do you want anything?' (a routine?) vs 'I'm going (to go) shopping later. Do you want anything?'
'I won't be using the car tomorrow. You can have it if you want'. vs 'I'm not going to use the car tomorrow. You can have it if you want'
'Won't you be taking the same train?' vs 'Aren't you going to take the same train?' vs 'Aren't you taking the same train?'

Hello again Elka0507,

I think the key to understanding this use of the future continuous to talk about future plans is the fact that it is a verb form with continuous aspect. Aspect shows how the speaker perceives or experiences a situation - not so much when it occurs but the contour of the event. It's as if you were imagining yourself 'inside' the situation.

You can use the future continuous to talk about an intended or arranged future event (like 'be going to' or present continuous), but by using the future continuous you show that you're thinking of the event as being in progress at that future point in time. It's as if you're thinking of the event from beginning to end and imagine yourself 'inside' the event as it is happening. 'be going to' and the present continuous don't have this same idea.

  • 'be going to' speaks about what one intends to do
  • present continuous speaks about what one has arranged to do
  • future continuous speaks about what one intends (or has arranged) to do with the additional sensation of being 'inside' the event

For example, if I want to meet with you on Thursday at 12.00 and you check your calendar and see you have an appointment at that time, you could use either present or future continuous (e.g. 'Sorry, I'm having lunch with my father'). If you used present continuous, it as if you're thinking about blocks of time (e.g. 12.00-13.00, 13.00-15.00, etc.) on that day, whereas if you use the future continuous, it shows that you're thinking about that moment in time and what you'll be doing inside that moment, e.g. sitting at a table and talking.

I expect this may not be a completely satisfying answer – this is a subtle distinction that is difficult to describe – but if you analyse how native speakers use these tenses in the future with this in mind, it should slowly become clearer (I hope!).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk,

Thanks a lot for your answer! You really helped me.

So, here's what I've summarized and written down in my notebook.

Future Continuous:

a) the speakers imagine the situation in the future while talking about it. They are emotionally involved, and this is the key:
e.g. I won't be using my car for work tomorrow (the person sees tomorrow in his mind's eye - either you are anticipating today's flight, let's say, to California and tomorrow's relaxing on the sunny beach and listening to the ocean, or, on the contrary, your car needs repair and you are already feeling as if you were squeezed in a stuffy bus getting to the office in the morning)

I'm not going to use my car for work tomorrow. - there is no emotional colouring, the person only tells about their decision (to have the car fixed or whatever)

b) kind of certainty: the event is either planned or like bound to happen, no matter what is going on at the moment - it's quite reasonable if you already see it.

Thanks again,

Helen

Hello Helen,

That seems a good summary to me. Of course, we are talking about perspective here - how the speaker sees the event - rather than objective facts and so there is always some interpretation and a lot of grey areas. However, I think you have summarised the uses here well.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter,

Thanks a lot for your feedback! The more I'm thinking about the English tense system, the more I realize you should have a kind of 'gut feeling' for it to use this or that tense properly. And as Kirk says it takes time and you need a lot of language exposure.

I totally agree with you that each case is context dependent. E.g. I'm taking the sentence from Kirk's answer 'Will you meet me at 12?' 'Sorry. I'll be seeing my father'. The speaker can mean by this:
1) certainty, almost inevitability like 'The meeting is going to happen whatever. I just can't cancel that even if you want me to. No use asking';
2) emphasis on duration - I'm already booked for the WHOLE afternoon but I'll be free in the evening;
3) emotional involvement - I'm all excited about this lunch. I haven't seen my dad for ages or I'm afraid of this meeting and the conversation is going to be hard time;
4) or a combination of those, right?

So I'll be reading and watching in English more to get it.

Helen

Hi sir
Could you tell me which one is true?
We'll know/ we'll have known a bit more this weekend when we'll research the whole thing on the internet.

Hello Puckerino,

I would say the first is correct (we'll know) as the reference is to a future time. We use the future perfect (we'll have known) when the time reference is to a point before a point in the future, and that is not the case here.

The verb in the second clause should probably be present simple (when we research) as we generally use present forms after time linkers such as this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

Thank you very much.

Could anybody explain the meaning of the following sentence:
The New Company of the Year WILL HAVE GONE PUBLIC LAST YEAR? Why LAST year.
The sentence was taken from Pass Cambridge BEC Vantage Self-study practice tests, p.9.
thanks

Hello Natalia,

The future perfect can be used to say that you think that something happened in the past – that is the way it is being used in this sentence. This is quite an advanced form that is not used all that often, which is why you won't find it explained elsewhere on our site.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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