Talking about the future

Learn about the different verb forms you can use to talk about the future, and do the exercises to practise using them.

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.

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Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

I think this question will be best answered on the basis of concrete examples rather than general statements. Are there any sentences you have come across which you would like to ask about? If you have two or three examples then we'll be happy to comment on them and use them to highlight any relevant rules or tendencies.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Thu, 02/07/2020 - 07:49

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Could you tell me whether these sentences below are grammatically correct in the tenses of the subordinate clauses? 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. "We have gotten an opportunity that we borrow the gym." "He will be in a situation that he is surrounded by a gang." (I think I've seen sentences like these. But I'm not sure exactly when to use the tense.)

Submitted by Amit shukla on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 11:34

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Hello Sir, Sir, what is the difference between these sentences. 1. We plan to go to France for our holidays. 2. We have planned to go to France for our holidays. Thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 07:36

In reply to by Amit shukla

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Hello Amit shukla,

The first sentence is fine. It talks about what the speaker intends to do in the future.

The second sentence does not seem very natural to me. If the plan is still current then you would use a present simple form like in the first sentence. If the plan is not currect then you would use a past simple form: We planned to go to France for our holidays... but then our plans changed

 

You could use have planned in a different context:

We have planned the first part of the journey, now we need to plan the second part.

Here, plan is used not to mean 'intend' as in your example but rather to mean 'prepare'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NinaZ on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 10:11

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Hello, I would like to know if there is a sentence, with a decision that involves planning, in going to future in this paragraph (specifically 'I am going to wait for the CDC advisory to be lowered'). If so could you provied me with an explanation as to why. *As antsy as I am to get back on the road, I’m waiting until these advisories have been lifted before I consider non-essential travel again. For domestic air travel, I’m going to wait for the CDC advisory to be lowered. For international travel, I’ll be waiting for both the U.S. State Department and the destination country’s health department to lower advisories.* Thank you. Nina Z.
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 14:11

In reply to by NinaZ

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Hello Nina Z.

The sentence you ask about (with 'going to wait') sounds like a plan to me. I don't know what exactly the person is thinking, but it sounds as if they want or need to travel, and plan to wait until the restrictions are lifted before doing it.

Does that help?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the different between in two sentance 1.i am going to America tomorrow 2.i am going to go America tomorrow

Hello Daniel smith141,

Your first sentence uses the present continuous form (be going to). This tells us that the action is something that has been arrranged in advance. For example, the speaker may have made reservations, bought tickets and so on.

Your second sentence uses the going to future form (be going to + verb, which describes plans or intentions. It tells us that the speaker has thought about the trip before and is not making a decision at the time of speaking. It does not tell us whether the speaker has arranged anything about the trip but only that the decision was made some time earlier. Note that there is a mistake in this sentence: you need to say ...go to America... and not just ...go America...

 

The sentences are a little confusing because the main verb is go. which is the same verb used in the going to form. If you change the main verb then the difference is easier to see:

I am travelling to American tomorrow. [present continuous]

 

I am going to travel to America tomorrow. [going to]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Milca_Joy on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 05:06

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I've tried to correct the grammar in this statement of my friend, I would like to ask some help if I made it right. [friend's statement] I'll do some job first Then if I had saved enough money, I will go to school. [my correction] I am gonna do some job first Then if I save enough money, I am going to school.

Hello Milca_Joy,

I think take would be better than do in this context. You could say do some jobs, but that does not necessarily mean getting paid for them.

In the first sentence both will and going to are possible. It depends upon whether this is a plan or a decision made at the time of speaking. If the person has thought about this before then going to is better.

In the second sentence had saved is not correct; save is fine. You could also change if to when if the speaker is sure that they will have enough money at some point.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sidra_ on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 08:47

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Hello! Can we say like this, 'This work will be done by night'. If so, then why we didn't use "do" in a sentence because I'm talking about simple future tense and so the verb do will be used.
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 07:28

In reply to by Sidra_

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Hello Sidra_

'will be done' is not just in the simple future, it is also a passive verb. Please follow the link and I think the explanation there will clear it up for you. Please don't hesitate to ask if not.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by YSATO201602 on Sun, 19/04/2020 - 10:08

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Hello teachers We often use present simple tense to mean future events which are very unlikely to change such as: - Our plane departs at 6:45. (instead of "will depart") - Don't be late! The meeting starts at 13:00. (instead of "will start") My students asked me whether it is also right to say: - My father is retirement age next year. - I am seventeen years old next month. They thought these are also unchangeable future events. In my feeling, of course, it should be more suitable to use "will be" in both cases instead of "is/am" and I usually hear such phrases in a conversation. But I just want to ask native speakers whether these two sentences are really unnatural, and if so, why they sounds unfeasible. Thanks in advance

Hello Ysato201602

As I understand it, the present simple is used to speak about scheduled events, i.e. events that you could find on a timetable that is available to the public. Although I can see how, in a sense, birthdays are on a timetable, it is not correct to use the present simple in either of the sentences your students asked about.

I'm impressed, however, that your students had such a question -- it shows they are really thinking about the grammar!

Best wishes to you and your students

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aaaaa on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 14:10

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hello sir how can i write a task about " What will your life be like when you’re 70?"

Hello aaaaa

Do you mean which verb forms should you use?

When you are speaking about plans that you have for your life, the best form is probably 'to be going to' (e.g. 'I'm going to travel to Mongolia when I'm 70'). When you are making predictions, that is, when you don't have a plan but you are supposing what you will do, you could use 'will' for discrete actions (e.g. 'I won't go to work every morning') or 'might' or 'may' for ones you are less sure about. You could use the future continuous for actions that happen over a longer period of time (e.g. 'I'll be living in a small fishing village on the coast of the Adriatic').

Does that give you some ideas?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anna Bo on Mon, 09/03/2020 - 14:16

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Can I use -Will in a relative clause after future time clause in a case like this: When you join the group, that will study intensively, be ready to work hard.

Hello Anna Bo,

Yes, you can use will in this way. You are creating a relative clause within the sentence. If the relative clause is defining (i.e. it identifies the group) then you can use that as the relative pronoun. In this case, no commas are needed. However, if the relative clause is non-defining (i.e. it provides extra, non-essential, information) then you cannot use that but must use a different relative pronoun (who or which) or a relative adverb (whenwhere or why).

In your sentence you need to decide if the relative clause is intended to identify which group you are talking about (in which case you need to remove the commas) or if you are simply providing additional interesting information (in which case you need to replace that with which).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ElaMariela on Sat, 29/02/2020 - 12:56

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Hello, there! I'd like to ask the difference of these sentences in terms of the context on email writing: 1. I will be following up with the client. 2. I'm following up with the client. 3. I will follow up with the client. I often find the first statement on emails rather than the second or three. Why is it? Thanks

Hello ElaMariela

It's difficult to say for sure without the exact context, but I expect the writer is imagining the future situation in which she or he is communicating with the client. By using the future continuous, they could be imagining it as a process. 2 is more of a statement about a future plan and 3 is more of a promise or offer to follow up.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Shaban Nafea

The second sentence is correct and natural; the first one is not correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 04/02/2020 - 14:21

In reply to by Shaban Nafea

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Hello again Shaban Nafea

Both are grammatically correct. In a specific context, the second one could be better, but in general the first is probably better. It depends on the context and what you mean.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Graziella on Sun, 02/02/2020 - 15:31

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Hello, how would you complete this sentences: 'Tell me what the problem is. I will be able to help you' or 'I might be able to help you'. Thank you

Hello Graziella

That depends on the situation and what you want to say. The one with 'will' would make sense when you are sure that you can help the other person and the one with 'might' would make sense when you are not sure that you can help. So both can be correct -- it depends on what you mean.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 03:00

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Hallo Sir, Could u please tell me which sentence is correct 1. They will finish the roof by Tuesday. 2. They'll have finished the roof by Tuesday. And what is the reason? Thank you,
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 09:37

In reply to by Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha,

Both sentences are grammatically possible and have essentially the same meaning. I would say the first might suggest that the work will end more or less on Monday, while the second is a little broader and implies that it may be done earlier, but that Tuesday is the latest possible end date. However, I can't think of a context in which you would not be able to use either.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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 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.'