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 (149 votes)

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

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

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

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

In reply to by Anisha00329


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

It's very important for future tense

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

it is really wonderful and useful in future

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

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

In reply to by Claudia


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,



The LearnEnglish Team

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

Very useful! Thank you.