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 (154 votes)

Submitted by Lal on Tue, 09/06/2020 - 15:32

Hello Sir 1. The door bell rings. I will get it. 2. The door bell is ringing. I will get it. Please let me know whether number 2. is right or wrong. Can't one use present continuous in this situation instead of present simple. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The second sentence is fine.

The first sentence is not correct, however, unless it is part of a narrative (a story) which uses the present tense throughout - some authors employ this technique. You need the present continuous here, or a past simple if the bell has stopped ringing.



The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 03:15

It's really interesting.

Submitted by Bharati on Mon, 27/04/2020 - 10:15

Hello kirk, Hope you to be doing good in the midst of Pandemic. I am indeed grateful for your repeated indulgence on the subject which has bothered me often. May i request you to clarify the time references for the following subordinate clauses :- "He will come to know what i need"or "What i need will be known to him" 1.What will be the time reference of "what i need" ? My instinct tells me present time even though the main clause is in future. Best wishes and regards.

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
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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