Future plans

Do you know how to talk about future plans using will, going to and the present continuous?

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. 

will

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

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Language level

Submitted by Bob.Mux on Wed, 01/12/2021 - 04:51

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Hello the team!
I would really appreciate if you could help me understand the use of modal "will" in the sentences below:
A daughter: Mum, my flat is being decorated. Can i come and stay with you?
A mother: Of course, dear. How long will you stay?
Here, why is "will" used? I think, we can assume her staying as a plan or an intention because she could have diceded to stay with her parents before the time of the conversation with her mum so using "be going to+ verb or future/present continuous will be the best choice... and second, is it ok if we use "will" for arrangements wen we wish to express our determination about an what we have already arranged? For example,
I am helping my friend with cleaning the room. ( my arrangement with the friend)
I will help my friend with cleaning the room ( my determination, whatever happens, i am still going to help my friend

Hi Bob.Mux,

In the first example, there are several possibilities. "Will" could indicate an intention or willingness (similar in meaning to "How long do you want to stay?"), or it could indicate certainty (i.e., asking about the daughter's particular needs or requirements). You may find this Cambridge Dictionary page useful: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/will?q=Will

Yes, it is possible to say "How long are you going to stay?" or "How long are you staying?", as you mention. But in these cases, the mother assumes that the daughter has already made the decision to stay with her parents - even before asking whether it is OK to do so. In other words, the question "Can I come and stay with you?" is not genuinely asking for permission (because the answer is understood by mother and daughter to be an obvious 'yes' since the daughter has already made her plan to stay) but instead just informing the mother of the daughter's intention.

On the other hand, if we understand "Can I come and stay with you?" as a genuine request for permission, then the mother would be less likely to use going to and present continuous in her reply, because the daughter's intention depends on whether the mother gives permission or not (i.e., it's not a confirmed plan).

Interesting example and I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot Jonathan,
Your explanation has made a sense but now i am a bit confused about what what intentions are like. What is the difference between intentions expressed by "will" and "be going to verb"? As a non-English speaker we are always taught that intentions are something in our minds, like plan but not fully arranged and we should you be going to verb for intentions

Hi Bob.Mux,

‘Going to’ expresses an intention that is relatively more arranged and confirmed than using ‘will’. Here are some examples.

-- When I go to London next month, I’ll visit the Science Museum. (the speaker’s wishes to do this, but the visit has not necessarily been arranged or confirmed)
-- When I go to London next month, I’m going to visit the Science Museum. (the speaker considers the visit to be certain or almost certain; it may have already been arranged or confirmed)

We can also compare it with the present continuous:
-- When I go to London next month, I’m visiting the Science Museum. (an even higher degree of certainty; the visit has been arranged or confirmed; it implies that it is part of a schedule or itinerary)

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Thu, 08/04/2021 - 08:21

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Hi dear teachers, In ex2 there is a question saying, what............ next week. the correct answer is, what are you doing. So, is it Okay to also say what will you do next week?

Hello Maahir,

We use 'will' to speak about decisions that we make in the moment. In most contexts, we'd assume that this question is about plans that someone already has, so the present continuous form is better here.

Hope that helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tony1980 on Tue, 06/04/2021 - 16:44

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Hi learn English team Can you help me pls with the correct answer. Tomorrow is the day I’ve decided 1. I’m going to start/ I’ll start/ I’m starting planning my future. The first thing 2. I’ll do / I’m doing/ I’m going to do is to make a wish list of all the things I hope 3. I’ll achieve / I’m achieving/ I’m going to achieve. Thanks in advance. Best wishes Andi

Hello Andi,

For 1, I'd recommend just 'to start' over any of those options; but if I had to choose one, I suppose I'd choose the first one. For 2, the 'going to' form. For 3, I'd just say 'to achieve', but if I had to choose one, I'd choose the 'going to' form again.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk Thanks for the response Best wishes Andi
Hi Kirk But at 3 I hope I think I expect is usually followed by “ will “ which expresses predictions why your choice was the going to form?

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 10/04/2021 - 15:30

In reply to by Tony1980

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Hello Andi,

The beginning of the sentences you asked about establishes a different context. 'Tomorrow is the day I've decided' makes it sound as if you're making a plan now for a future time. 'going to' is the most typical form we use to speak about plans.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk I’ve just came across the correct answers of the paragraph I have mentioned above and they are as follows: in all the three cases present continues is incorrect and two others are correct . I want to leave out the going to form from your focus. I need you to explain please why in all three cases present continues is incorrect and will is correct. Sorry for going this over again but I’m not fully clear about this. Best wishes Andi

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 16:21

In reply to by Tony1980

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Hello Andi,

In all three cases, the speaker seems to be speaking about a decision they've made just now. We use the present continuous to speak about plans that have already been arranged, which is incompatible with plans that we've decided just now.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk Thanks for the response concerning future plans . Really appreciate it. Can you help me please over this paragraph. That means finding accessories to set them off and making decisions about the model’s hair. In this paragraph Finding and making are present participle or gerund ? And why please? Sorry for asking this question in this section but I couldn’t find the relevant section Best wishes Andi

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 09:07

In reply to by Tony1980

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Hello Andi,

I'm afraid it's difficult to say for sure without knowing the context for this sentence. I don't understand what 'that' refers to here.

By the way, the best page for this question is our '-ing' forms page. If you want to ask us about it again, could you please repost it there with more context?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wasan0909 on Mon, 29/03/2021 - 14:04

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she is going to work next week we will have dinner later this day we are about to leave the mall the doctor is to announce the result I would be 18 by march he will have been worked for 13 months I leave at Monday

Submitted by FirasAkkad on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 16:35

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Hello, Would you please explain why we have used " going to: in the exercise sentence "What are you going to do when you finish university?". I am confused as it looks to me as we are asking for a person's future plan, and we have to use present continuous. Thanks.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 25/02/2021 - 14:09

In reply to by FirasAkkad

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Hi FirasAkkad,

Using the present continuous is possible too: What are you doing when you finish university? This means that the plans are more arranged and confirmed.

But often, we can't assume that a person's plans are arranged and confirmed, so it might be better to ask a more general question using going to. Going to asks about what the person intends to do or has decided to do (not only about arranged and confirmed plans).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 09:54

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Dear Sir, I am confused because we use ''going to" to make predictions based on the evidence we can see, right? However, in my book, there is an example: "Shh! Don't make so much noise. You will wake everybody up." So in that case we do not predict what is going to happen based on evidence in present? I thought that if we can hear that somebody is noisy it such evidence as dark clouds which predict rain. Please help me. Best regards.

Hello Zuzanna,

I imagine that the person who wrote that sentence is using 'will' to express certainty about the result of making noise. You could also think of the situation as an implied first conditional ('If you make noise, you will wake them up'), which would also help explain the use of 'will' here.

I would probably say 'will' here too (for the reasons I explained above), but I don't think it would be wrong to use 'be going to'.

As you can see, the speaker's perspective on the situation is really important!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Htoo Sandi Soe Moe on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 18:42

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Dear sir, i would like to ask one question. -What are you going to do this weekends? -What are you doing this weekends? Are they correct? If i don't use ''this weekends'', can i ask ''what will you do?'' Is it correct? Which condition can i use ''what will you do? " Please explain me Sir.

Hello Htoo Sandi Soe Moe,

First of all, we would say 'this weekend' (without the 's').

As far as the verb form goes, both are possible. Going to describes an intention (in your head) while the present continuous (are doing) suggests an arrangement which is more fixed.

 

I think if you are only talking about your plan then going to is the best choice. If you have already taken steps arranging somethign then the present continuous is more likely:

I'm going to go to the restaurant this weekend. [my plan]

I going to the restaurant this weekend. [I have a reservation]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir. Can I use, What will you do in your holidays? How will you spend your summer holidays? Are they correct? Please explain me.

Hello Htoo Sandi Soe Moe,

Both sentences are grammatically correct.

We use will usually when we think the person does not have any idea and we are asking them to decide or guess right now, rather than about what plans they have.

You might say this if, for example, something has happened and you need to make a decision:

We wanted to vist our friends in the summer, but with the pandemic travel is impossible.

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that! What will you do then?

I'm not sure. Maybe we'll just stay at home this year.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by polina1526 on Mon, 02/11/2020 - 17:40

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This is a really helpful rule on how to tell the difference between will, to be going to and present continuous, which is not only understandable but has pretty good examples that show how one can actually use it in their speech or essays. For students who are willing to pass the language examination, it is essential to know the ways to express their future plans and just be able to make a point using complex grammar.

Submitted by Mayur Desai on Tue, 01/09/2020 - 18:29

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Excellent information regarding Simple Future Tense.Different uses were explained with ample examples.

Submitted by Anisha00329 on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 07:44

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Hi Sir, I am very confused about the use of future tenses. The new film is opening (How about: opens, is due to open, is to open, will open, will be opening) at the Eldorado on Saturday. We are to receive (receive, are due to receive, are receiving, will receive, will be receiving) a per cent wage rise in June. The President is to return to Brazil today (returns, is due to return, is returning, will return, will be returning). Thanks a lot for your help teachers!

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 13:06

In reply to by Anisha00329

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Hi Anisha00329,

Yes, there are a lot of ways to refer to the future :) Let me try to explain.

  1. The new film is opening on Saturday. The present continuous means that the action is already arranged (i.e. it has been confirmed, and people know about it).
  2. The new film opens on Saturday. The present simple means that this (the opening) is a fact, or that it is part of a schedule. The present simple is often used for events on schedules or timetables like this.
  3. The new film is due to open on Saturday. This phrase emphasises that the opening is expected (i.e. planned or scheduled). Compared with sentence 1, it's less focused on the action and more focused on the expectation.
  4. The new film is to open on Saturday. This phrase (be + to + verb) also shows a certain, planned action. It's often used in newspaper writing and to make official announcements.
  5. The new film will open on Saturday. This is a certain, factual statement. 
  6. The new film will be opening on Saturday. The future continuous represents the action (opening) as having a duration (i.e. going on for a period time), not just as happening in a single moment (like sentence 5).

 

As you can see, some meanings are similar. In real language use, there are usually several possible ways to say something, and not just a single correct answer. The option we choose depends on how we want to represent the action (e.g. as a fact, a scheduled event, an organised event that people know about, etc.). So, it usually depends a lot on the context in which we are speaking or writing.

 

For more about the meanings in 1 and 5, have a look at the examples above on this page. For more about sentence 2, see the section titled Present simple and future time here. For more about the future continuous (sentence 6), see this page

I hope that helps to make sense of the second set of examples too. 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Arun dafda on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 08:42

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It's very important for future tense

Submitted by abdullah kaleem on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 12:14

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it is really wonderful and useful in future

Submitted by Claudia on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 00:49

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Hi! In this exercise: "What _are you going to do_ after you finish university?" I don't understand why is "are you going to" instead of "are you doing", for is asking someone about their future plans. Thanks!

Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 03:57

In reply to by Claudia

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Hi Claudia,

 

You're right that What are you doing after you finish university? is about future plans. But the present continuous is for plans that are already arranged and confirmed (see the Present continuous section above for some examples). So, What are you doing ...? is fine, if you want to ask someone specifically about their confirmed future plans.

 

But often, we want to ask someone more generally about their ideas or intentions for the future (i.e. not necessarily confirmed arrangements). What are you going to do? is the best question in this case.

 

Best wishes,

 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asni on Mon, 27/07/2020 - 23:11

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Very useful! Thank you.

Submitted by Saamongo on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 20:43

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Please moderator! Can we continue using this site even at the end of the 30 days? beacause i find it very very useful for teachers in charge of the courses.

Hello Saamongo,

Yes, the materials on LearnEnglish are available for use to all, even if someone is not a British Council student.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saamongo on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 20:33

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When I get my pay rise i'm going to have a bigger flat. I mean this is a future purpose but not a decided situation. Here is the first conditional form.

Hello Saamongo,

It's perfectly fine to use going to in the result clause like this. It expresses an intention rather than a prediction.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saamongo on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 20:16

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A: TEA or Coffee? B: I'LL HAVE COFFEE, PLEASE! WHY NOT "I'm GOING TO HAVE ?" Because I think it's an decided situation - need more explanations

Hello Saamongo,

We use will to express a decision made at the time of speaking, so as a response to this question it is perfectly fine.

We use going to to express an intention or a plan we have in mind. You might say this if you are discussing your drinks before you enter the cafe, for example.

Usually I have tea, but today I'm going to have a coffee. What about you?

Yeah, I'm going to have a coffee too. Or maybe two or three!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Miss Elogne on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 00:37

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Vert interesting. I'm learning a lot. Thank you.

Submitted by Prince Edward on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 16:36

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Quite good exercises!! I made some mistakes but I lastly completed all

Submitted by Lamine on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 13:42

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Thank you , we're really learning much from this link

Submitted by NEBANECHE on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 12:58

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I'm not quite satisfied with my results. I'll keep working hard. Thank you British Council for this awesome opportunity.

Hello Nebaneche,

I wanted to point out that we have another page called Talking about the future that explains this same grammar in a little more detail. Perhaps that could help you understand this a little better.

Please let us know if you have any specific questions.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maria etsesomi on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 10:07

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It's really interesting. I am going to learn a lot of new things here

Submitted by Dastenova Firuza on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 16:37

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I am satisfied with my rsults.

Submitted by Karan Narang on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 04:46

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After the comments I am going to have milk with some biscuit after having milk I will get ready to go shop after that time I am doing some work in the shop.