Future forms: 'will', 'be going to' and present continuous

Future forms: 'will', 'be going to' and present continuous

Do you know how to talk about future plans using will, going to and the present continuous? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how will, going to and the present continuous are used.

Oh great! That meeting after work's been cancelled. I'll go to that yoga class instead. 
I'm going to try to visit my relatives in Australia this year.
The restaurant is reserved for 8. We're having a drink at Beale's first.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Future plans: Grammar test 1

Grammar explanation

We use different verb forms to talk about our plans for the future, depending on what kind of plan it is: a spontaneous plan, a pre-decided plan or an arrangement. 


We use will to talk about spontaneous plans decided at the moment of speaking.

Oops, I forgot to phone Mum! I'll do it after dinner. 
I can't decide what to wear tonight. I know! I'll wear my green shirt.
There's no milk. I'll buy some when I go to the shops.

going to

We use going to to talk about plans decided before the moment of speaking.

I'm going to phone Mum after dinner. I told her I'd call at 8 o'clock.
I'm going to wear my black dress tonight. 
I'm going to go to the supermarket after work. What do we need? 

Present continuous

We usually use the present continuous when the plan is an arrangement – already confirmed with at least one other person and we know the time and place.

I'm meeting Jane at 8 o'clock on Saturday. 
We're having a party next Saturday. Would you like to come?

We often use the present continuous to ask about people's future plans.

Are you doing anything interesting this weekend?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Future plans: Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4 (146 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Hello Bharati

I'd say it's not clear what the time reference is. Whether the clause refers to a present or future time, we use a present simple (or sometimes present perfect) verb form in a time clause beginning with 'when', which makes the exact time reference ambiguous. 

The context would probably make this clear, though.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ardalan on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 16:37

Hello dear Kirk/Peter There is a test above that contains: When I get my pay rise, _____ a bigger flat. The answer is "I'm going to get" but I've learnt in first conditional sentences that we can use when instead of if. And the structure is "if/when + present simple >> will + infinitive". So can we use in these sentence "I'll get" or not?

Hello Ardalan

In first conditional structures, 'will' + infinitive is the most common verb form, but others (such as 'be going to' + infinitive) are also possible.

So, you could say 'I'll get' or 'I'm going to get', though note that there is a slight difference in meaning. In the case of 'I'll get', the speaker is making the decision in the moment they say this. In contrast, 'I'm going to get' shows that the speaker already had this plan before making this statement.

In the case of the sentence in Grammar test 2 that you ask about, however, 'I'll get' would be strange because the speaker seems to have plans about the future. The fact that they don't yet have the pay rise suggests they already have plans and so 'I'm going to get' is a better choice than 'I'll get'.

Does that make sense? It's quite a subtle point and we're going to look into changing that question so that it's clearer. I'm sorry for any confusion that might have caused.

Best wishes


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jazmin marquez on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 00:59

Hello, Help!! Can you explain me, what is the difference betwen future continuous and Present continuous? In this case, for example: a.) I'm meeting Jane at 8 o'clock b.) I'll be meeting Jane at 8 o'clock
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 08:08

In reply to by jazmin marquez


Hello jazmin marquez,

The first sentence (I'm meeting) describes something which has been arranged and is already set in your (mental) diary. It is not only an intention or expectation, but an already agreed and fixed event.

The second sentence (I'll be meeting) is a little less certain. It describes something that you expect to happen, perhaps because this is something which is part of your normal daily activities, but which you do not necessarily see as absolutely certain.


Obviously, the difference here is one of emphasis and perspective. It's really about how the speaker sees the event rather than anything else, so generally the speaker can choose which form they want to use, based on what they wish to emphasise.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Fri, 06/03/2020 - 04:38

Hello, seek your clarification on the time reference(present/future) of imperative sentences Ex-if someone says"give me coffee "does it imply that it refers to immediate future or it means present time. I ask this as in example sentence where decision is made at the moment , we say "i would like to have coffee(=give me coffee) " .This sentence appear to be talking about immediate future. Thanks
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 06/03/2020 - 09:47

In reply to by Bharati


Hello Bharati

The way I see it, imperative verbs refer to a time after the time of speaking because of course the interlocutor can only act after they have heard the utterance.

That time can be immediate or it can be far in the future. Usually the context will make it clear, but if not, the only way to know is to ask the speaker what they mean.

You can say 'I'd like a coffee' when you're ordering in a restaurant; it's also common to say 'I'll have a coffee' to mean the same thing. They are not imperatives, but rather requests. As with imperatives, in my view they are speaking about a time after the time of speaking -- in this case, the near future.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team