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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.


Rule 2 and 6 are contradictory in nature ?
2. They are coming to see us tomorrow (plan)
6. They'll be coming to see us next week. (Plan)

Both are correct or not ?

Hello Abhishek,

No, they are not contradictory. Remember that grammatical rules describe how words work, and grammar is not simply a tight system without any redundancy. It would be very weak if that were the case.

Both verb forms can refer to plans. The difference is in the perspective of the speaker on the plan or the future time. There has been some discussion of this recently on our Future continuous and future perfect page -- please have a look at the first couple of pages of comments there and I think Peter's answers there will help you make more sense of this.

If not, please feel free to ask us more there.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
I'd like to know if there is a difference in these two sentences:
1. I'll come when I finish.
2. I'll come if I finish.
If yes, what is the difference in meaning?

Hello Allate,

When suggests that finishing is certain; it is only a question of time.

If suggests that the speaker does not know whether or not they will finish; it is possible that they will not finish.



The LearnEnglish Team

I find this illustration of the link above is not accurate and might not include all the cases in which we should use the present tense in the way. I wanted to know all the cases and the accurate rules of this usage of the present tense, sir. (Sorry for making a vague question before, sir. T.T)

Hello Kim Hui-Jeong,

I don't see any errors in the section that you referred to. Some people might prefer to call the past simple forms in the second conditional sentences a subjunctive form, but the example sentence is certainly correct. If there was a specific sentence that you think is wrong, you're welcome to copy that sentence here and then tell us what you think is wrong or don't understand. I'd also recommend you read our page that explains this grammar, but I'm afraid we don't provide exhaustive explanations of grammar points -- there are just too many possibilities.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team


please can you tell me which form is correct?

She will be 30 next month.
She is going to be 30 next month.

or are they both correct?

Hello veve,

Both options are correct. When we talk about people's ages in this way we can use a very wide range of forms. For example, as well as the two you included you could also use these:

She's 30 next month.

She turns 30 next month.

She'll be turning 30 next month.

She's turning 30 next month.



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you very much :)

I'm curious about exactly when to use the present tense that refers to the future in dependant clauses. I already know that the present tense must be used in some cases of time/place/condition clauses and relative clauses. But I'm not sure if I must use the present tense in some cases of situation/case clauses(or other clauses) and appositive clauses. I would be really grateful if you helped me. I've been very confused ever since I first encountered the present tense used like this.