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

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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.

Average
Average: 4.4 (64 votes)

Submitted by InmaLD on Mon, 07/10/2019 - 20:19

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I'll come home when I finish work. They are coming after they have had dinner. Why in the first sentence we use "will" and in the second one we use "be+-ing"? both seem the same to me

Hello InmaLD,

The choice of future is dependent here on how the speaker sees the situation. In the first example we have something like a promise. The speaker is telling the other person what they have decided to do (come home) once a certain condition (finish work) is fulfilled. In the second example, the speaker is describing an arrangement that has been made between the speaker and the peope who are coming to dinner.

Grammatically, you could use 'will' in the second sentence, but it would change the meaning of the sentence and mean that the speaker was guessing or predicting behaviour rather that talking about something they had arranged together.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 15:37

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Hi again, in an English course book we have the following sentence: #I spoke to aunt Larry and Dad. as i knew the word "Dad" must have been with small letter, "dad". why is it written with capital letter? Best wishes
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 12/09/2019 - 07:41

In reply to by Mohsen.k77

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Hello Mohsen.k77,

When we use a word like this to simply mean 'father' then we use a small letter. However, when we use it in place of a name, to represent a particular person, we capitalise it.

Daughters are often very good at making their dads do what they want!

 

I always had a good relationship with Dad. We spent every weekend together, walking on the beach and talking.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 15:21

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Hi Dear Teachers, #the incidence of respiratory allergies is twice more common in children with poor health. we have this sentence to correct the mistake,and in answer book the correct answer is "...as common..." I want to know why the first sentence is not correct. Thanks

Hello Mohsen,

When we show that two things are equal using adjectives, we use 'as' before and after the adjective:

Paul is as old as Peter.

This bag is as expensive as the other one.

 

We can use the same structure to show multiples:

Paul is twice as old as Peter.

This bag is three times as expensive as the other one.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Dear peter, thanks for your answer, but there's just one "as"(...is twice as common in children...) and if possible could you please let me know if the original sentence with "more common" is incorrect? because it seems right to me Best wishes

Hello Mohsen.k77

Only one is mentioned in the sentence but I assume that in context there would be another point of comparison. For example, the sentence could mean

twice as common in children as adults

twice as common in children as another disease

twice as common in children as it was ten years 

 

Grammatically speaking, it is not correct to say twice more common. You can say more common than, but when we use a multiplier then the correct form is twice as common as / three times as common as / a million times as common as etc. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 06/09/2019 - 08:09

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Hello. Yesterday, I was talking to my brother while walking home. I wanted to express future but I was confused about which form to use. Here is what I wanted to say: - "I'm tired of walking. I am going to take a taxi." Then I thought that I must say: - "I'm tired of walking. I will take a taxi." Which form is correct? Thank you.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 07/09/2019 - 07:35

In reply to by Ahmed Imam

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Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both are quite possible. 'Going to' expresses an intention, while 'will' expresses a sudden/spontaneous decision. In the context you provide, both would be possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fdrewaserera on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 23:30

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Hi Liverpool's players are known to be skilled.they will win or are going to win or are winning the match easily. could you answer and say why you chose it another question why he use is going to here the other team's players are very big.It's going to be a difficult match.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 03/09/2019 - 08:48

In reply to by fdrewaserera

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Hello fdrewaserera,

Both 'going to win' and 'will win' are possible here.

'Going to win' is a prediction based on something you see or know now, such as the skill of the players.

'Will win' is more of a personal belief.

'Are winning' would tell us that the match has already stated. It describes something happening now, not in the future.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello fdrewaserera,

You can, but it would depend on what the question is and in what context it is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by paritosh0125 on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 13:56

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Hello Sir, I am learning about the 'going to' verb. But can you please suggest what all are the concepts I can confuse it to .. I mean can I confuse it to use it as any other tense form like past or present
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 03/09/2019 - 08:30

In reply to by paritosh0125

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Hello paritosh0125,

I'm not quite sure what you mean here. 'Going to' describes a person's intention or the expected result of a present situation, and it is one of the ways of talking about the future in English. You can see examples on the page above, and you can see a discussion of different ways of describing plans on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/future-plans

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 01/09/2019 - 21:25

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Hello. Is the future form "will" in the following sentence correct? I think we should use the form "isn't going to" as there is evidence: "being stubborn", right? - For being stubborn, I expect she won't be persuaded easily. Thank you.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 07:26

In reply to by Ahmed Imam

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Hello Ahmed Imam

What you say makes sense and yes, 'isn't going to' is a good choice here. But 'won't be' is also fine, as it expresses a belief about the future. In some cases, such as this one, more than one form is possible.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saqib on Tue, 27/08/2019 - 16:37

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Sir , Is it correct to say 'After she will finish her degree , she intends to work in an office.'
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 28/08/2019 - 07:52

In reply to by Saqib

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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'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 21/08/2019 - 13:55

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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. Regards Lal

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Shaban Nafea on Fri, 09/08/2019 - 14:29

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Can I say Sarah won't go with us. No matter how much we ask her. Or Sarah isn't going to go with us. No matter how much we ask her.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 12/08/2019 - 22:52

In reply to by Shaban Nafea

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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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Grungedoom on Wed, 31/07/2019 - 07:35

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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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Hayley16 on Wed, 10/07/2019 - 15:29

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Hi, Could someone possibly explain the tense used in the following sentence? The car to be serviced next is the Toyota.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 07:27

In reply to by Hayley16

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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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Teacher.Iya.Ces on Fri, 28/06/2019 - 17:28

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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.

Hello Teacher.Iya.Ces

Both 'go' and 'are going' are possible here. The structure in this sentence is what is often called a first conditional -- it is explained a little bit in the last section of this page, or you can see another more detailed explanation of it on our Conditionals 1 page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KhaledElkarrani on Sat, 15/06/2019 - 01:20

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Dear sir, I want to take your advice about this confusing sentence which is an MCQ question in the English final exam of the 3rd year secondary Egypt 2019 Liverpool's players are known to be skilled, they........the match easily. [will win - are going to win] Regards
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 15/06/2019 - 10:31

In reply to by KhaledElkarrani

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Hello KhaledElkarrani

For that question, I would answer 'are going to win' because the prediction is based on some visible evidence (which is mentioned in the first part of the sentence). 

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by thuuuv on Thu, 06/06/2019 - 21:02

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Hello, I have one question regarding future tenses. What is the main difference between present continuous, which is used when we're talking about plans and arrangements, and future continuous?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 07/06/2019 - 07:39

In reply to by thuuuv

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Hello thuuuv, We use the present continuous for arrangements which we see as quite certain (as opposed to mere intentions or hopes). Future continuous can be used in a very similar way. The main difference, I think, is one of emphasis. The future continuous has more of a suggestion that the activity will be in progress at a particular time. For example: > I'm visiting Paul tomorrow evening. [this is my plan] > I'll be visiting Paul tomorrow evening. [this is what I'll be doing and so I can't do anything else] I think the second sentence is more likely when the speaker wants to imply being busy or unavailable, as opposed to simply stating their plans. However, as I said, this is really a question of implication and interpretation. There would nothing wrong with using either form, even to a direct question about whether someone is free or not. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dw3222 on Mon, 06/05/2019 - 16:00

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In the number 1 explaination as you said "We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements" Can we say? We have a party at christmas
Hello dw3222, You can use the present simple ('have') here, but the meaning is different from the present continuous ('are having'): > 'We have a party at Christmas' tells us what you usually do (every year). > 'We are having a party at Christmas' tells us about your plans for a particular year (this Christmas). ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anias on Mon, 15/04/2019 - 20:16

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Hello, I had a question about the difference between will and going to, as it confuses me a lot. Is there any difference between these two sentences: 1) What colour will you paint the children's bedroom? 2) What colour are you going to paint the children's bedroom? I would really appreciate if you answered my question. Thanks in advance.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:41

In reply to by Anias

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Hello Anias, There is often a choice between forms when talking about the future. Several forms may be grammatically correct, and which is used will depend on the context and how the speaker sees the particular action. In your example, both 'will' and 'going to' are possible. 'Going to' suggests that the person has considered the question before and already has an idea in their mind. 'Will' does not suggest this, and implies that the person is being asked to make a decision now. ~ You may find this page (Future Plans) helpful: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/future-plans ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ataur Rahman on Sat, 23/03/2019 - 09:14

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Is there any future tense in English Language in fact like two other conventional tenses?
Hello Ataur Rahman, No. Linguists distinguish two tenses in English. These are usually called present and past, though many linguists prefer the terms past and non-past. Instead of a tense, English uses a range of different forms to refer to future time. Sometimes 'will' is described as the future tense, but 'will' is actually a modal verb like 'might', 'should' and 'may'. It functions in the same way and, like other modal verbs, it often refers to the future. Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yuriy UA on Sun, 10/03/2019 - 15:44

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Hello, The LearnEnglish Team. You have answered a large number of learners' questions so far. (Many thanks for being so helpful!) Beyond any doubt you have extensive experience. Could you please help once again? Taking into consideration the grammar explained above, do you think it is acceptable to say: The conference is starting at 9.15 in the City hall. INSTEAD OF The conference starts at 9.15 in the City hall. And The delegation is leaving London tonight at 11 a.m. INSTEAD OF The delegation leaves London tonight at 11 a.m. I have looked through quite a few websites. Still, I haven't been lucky to find the answer. Some say it is quite possible to use Present Continuous in the sentences mentioned above as long as they refer to the near future. Is that true? Or it is ONLY Present Simple to be used in the sentences mentioned earlier? Your reply will be the ANSWER. Thank you very much.

Hello Yuriy UA

Both forms are grammatically correct, but one or the other is more correct or appropriate depending on the context, as is described above. If you are speaking about a timetable, the present simple is more appropriate, whereas, for example, if you want to emphasise that you need to to be in City Hall by 9.15 and you can see that your companions are moving slowly, the present continuous form could be appropriate.

English verb tenses (and verb tenses in all the languages I know, for that matter) have several different uses and context is always essential in determining which one to use.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DM817 on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 12:28

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Just been on the Teaching English site, brilliant just what I need. Thanks

Submitted by DM817 on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 10:13

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Hi Kirk, Thanks for the quick response and advice.

Submitted by DM817 on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 10:25

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I am a TEFL teacher and I struggle to explain clearly the possible uses of the future tenses. Do you have a suggestion for a simplified way of delivering the uses of the future tenses, please?

Hello DM817

I might recommend not covering more than a couple of uses at a time and choosing two where there is a clear contrast or difference between them.

I'd also suggest checking our sister site, TeachingEnglish, and asking this same question there. I expect you will find some discussion of this topic there, and if not, you can ask the community of teachers there and get lots of ideas, I'm sure.

Good luck!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Shaban Nafea on Tue, 26/02/2019 - 09:04

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Can I say: close your eyes I will surprise you. Guess what I've bought for you Or close your eyes I'm going to surprise you. Guess what I've bought for you Which is more natural What he says today will change the next day. He eats his words Or What he says today changes the next day. He eats his words

Hello Shaban Nafea

It would be more natural to use 'going to' in this case since you are speaking about an intention and plan to surprise the other person.

In the second pair of sentences, if you are speaking about the way this person is in general -- in other words, if he does this kind of thing regularly -- then the second one (with present tense) would communicate this idea. The first one would be better for speaking about about one specific situation.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by FadeFade on Sun, 17/02/2019 - 07:34

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Hi, about the past in future actions, I came across this sentence :" it's not as good as I thought it was going to be" Could you please explain this construction? May I say" it's not as good as I thought it was"? Thank you very much Fade