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

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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 :)

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 :)

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk Thanks for the response Best wishes Andi