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.

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Average: 4.4 (65 votes)

Submitted by Sokhom on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 12:21

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Hello,Sir What should I choose: It's against the ........... not to wear seat belt in a plane. a. rule b. regulation c. law d. order Thanks you.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 19/10/2020 - 07:46

In reply to by Sokhom

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Hello Sokhom,

I'd recommend you ask your teacher about that. I'm afraid that this sentence is a little unnatural-sounding, so I can't be sure what will be considered correct. In standard British English, we typically say 'against the law', 'against the rules' or 'against regulations'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 11:56

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Hello. Which form is suitable in the following situation? - I will meet Donna after school. - I am meeting Donna after school. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't understand the situation you are referring to. If you decide right now that you will meet Donna after school, the first one is correct. If you already had a plan to meet Donna after school, i.e. a plan that you previously made, then the second one would be the correct form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sindhallb on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 15:26

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How can we decide that would is used to show past or for asking foreference (like/dislike)

Hello sindhallb,

When a word has different possible meanings it is the context in which it is used (the sentence and the conversation/text around it) which makes the meaning or use clear.

If you're interested in the various uses of would then you can find them discussed on our various pages on modal verbs. Some pages deal specfically with particular modal verbs, such as would, while others deal with the uses of various modal verbs, such as ability, permission etc.

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/modal-verbs

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sindhallb on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 19:48

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It's somewhat confusing to use future tene with difference format of verbs for the varius purposes

Submitted by Aiza on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 19:09

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Hello, I have a question,as one of use of"will" is for formal announcement of a schedule d future event(to tell someone that something is happening and when and where it will happen) E.g. X band will be performing ng at this place. Or we wipp go to the beach next weekend. Or dad will be home at 6. In above example, something that is planned to happen,has a place or date/time then"present continuous " is also used form arragennts which as specific time and date.e.g.they are coming at 6. So, what's the difference between these two?

Submitted by vnpthao on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 04:26

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Hello, I would like to ask you about this sentence "The container to be set at minus 18 degrees Celsius". Does it just talk about an action may happen in the future? If not, does that sentence equal to "The container is set at minus 18 degrees Celsius"? I do not see your example of structure "to + verb" meaning the future. So does this structure still talk about simple present, or TO BE SET is just a wrong tense of IS SET?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 08:55

In reply to by vnpthao

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Hello vnpthao,

The form here has a future meaning. It is an instruction with a similar meaning to 'you must do this' or 'this is what you should do'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abhishek on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 08:05

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Allate on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 16:19

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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?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 07:47

In reply to by Allate

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Mon, 06/07/2020 - 00:52

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------------------------ 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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by veve on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 20:19

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Hello, 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?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/07/2020 - 06:52

In reply to by veve

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 13:17

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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.

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 Moore 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 Moore 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?"
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 15:00

In reply to by aaaaa

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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

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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 04/02/2020 - 14:01

In reply to by Shaban Nafea

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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 Moore 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