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. 

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

Language level

Average: 4 (101 votes)

Hello Parlour,

Fair enough. It sounds odd to me, but as you say, perhaps it's my variety of English. I've edited my reply.

My apologies for any confusion.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Shawnyin7751 on Tue, 17/01/2023 - 16:14

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Hello LearningEnglish Team,

I'd like to know if can I say that using WILL means that people are more likely to do something than using GOING TO...... ? Thank you.

Hello Shawnyin7751,

No, I wouldn't say that. In predictions, the choice of 'will' or 'going to' tells us about the speaker's point of view, not about what people actually do.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Will is used for any future plan when it is a remote situation: " I will marry you one day". "Cars will fly ". " When I grow old, I will go to university". Nothing here is likely to happen soon. However, when you mean to do something and you promise to do it, WILL is used: " I will always love you". "Sorry; I won't do that again" (promises). Going to is used when somebody has the intention to do something in the near future: " I am going to wash the car" ( plan or intention in the near future, maybe later today or tomorrow) There are other uses, of course, but I think I have answered your question.

Submitted by Juniper's shade on Tue, 08/11/2022 - 16:34

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Dear Native Speakers,
How can "I'm getting a car!" be correct in this situation, if this sentence does NOT refer to a fixed arrangement in the future? (Future plans, Grammar test 2, Last sentence). You should have written "I'm going to get a car!" instead, shouldn't you? Or maybe NOW I am making an 'on the spot decision', so I could say "I'll get a car!" Or does it refer to 'RIGHT NOW I'm getting a car!'? (But you're teaching us about Future plans here...Thanks a lot for your reply in advance.

Hello Juniper's shade,

In this situation (I'm getting a car! They've accepted my offer today), the second sentence makes it clear that the purchase is already confirmed. For this reason, the present continuous form works better, since this form shows the arrangement has been made.

You're right in thinking that in a situation where a spontaneous decision has been made, 'I'll get a car' could work. The sentence 'They've accepted my offer today' wouldn't work, but something like 'I really need one and I have the money' would.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna12 on Tue, 25/10/2022 - 08:26

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Dear Sir,

Is there a rule that both Future Simple and Present Continuous relate to activities about which the performer decides, while in terms of Future Continuous there is no information about who decided to do it but only states a fact that it is to be happening?

With regards,
Zuzanna

Hello Zuzanna,

Perhaps I haven't understood this idea correctly, but it doesn't sound right to me. For example, I could say 'I'm making a presentation in a meeting tomorrow morning' even when I hadn't really decided to do that, i.e. perhaps my boss told me I had to do it. I suppose one could argue that I accepted this and so in that sense I decided to do it, but I'm not sure if that's what this rule you ask about means.

It is true, though, that the difference between the future simple and future continuous is often one of nuance and emphasis.

You might want to have a look at our Talking about the future page, which goes into a bit more detail than this one.

I'm not sure if this has answered your question. Please let us know if you have any more questions -- the more specific, the better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rabearabea on Tue, 16/08/2022 - 15:31

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Hi Learn English Team,
When we talk about events in a “school activity week” which is officially fixed in a timetable, is it correct to "will", e.g. :
1- When will the art activity start?
2- When will the sports activity start?
3- When will the science activity start?
and the answers are:
- The art activity will start at 8:00 on Sunday 12 April.
- The sports activity will start at 8:00 on Monday 13 April.
- The science activity will start at 8:00 on Tuesday 14 April.