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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0NjU=

Talking about the future 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0NjY=

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.

Average
Average: 4.4 (64 votes)

Hello aeposp,

The choice of the forms is informed by the speaker's intentions and perspective, and the situation they find themselves in.

In this case, I'd say 'we're going to enjoy'. I don't think 'will' works at all in this specific context, unless there's more to it than expressed here. Even then, it seems doubtful to me.

By the way, we don't usually publish more than one comment from the same user per day, so you will see all of your other questions eventually. 

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jrvalentin on Tue, 21/03/2023 - 18:02

Permalink

Hello.
Please, could you tell me if have chosen the connect answer?
Everything is happening so fast! We ..................... for a year when we get married next month.
Options:
a) can't have been dating
b) won't have been dating
c) would´n have been dating
d) couldn't have been dating

My choice: B, because it's a future fact

Hello jrvalentin,

Yes, I would also choose B. None of the other answers are correct.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Rak Han on Tue, 28/02/2023 - 20:35

Permalink

Could you please help me understand the sentence below?

Ammar will be working late , so I won't call him early in the morning .
( Rewrite the sentence using the FUTURE IN THE PAST ).

I knew Ammar would be working late , so I didn't call him early in the morning.

My question is that why the auxiliary verb WON'T in the subordinate clause has been changed into didn't rather than wouldn't?

P.s. This answer is proposed by native speakers

Hello Rak Han,

In the first sentence, 'I won't call him' is speaking about a future time, for example, Wednesday morning. In the second sentence, Wednesday morning has already passed, so we speak about it with a past simple verb. We say 'would be working late' because it expresses a past belief about a future in the past, but 'didn't call him' is stated from the perspective of the present.

In a Future in the past situation, we use 'would' to talk about past beliefs about the future, but not about present statements about the past. It's the same reason we say 'I knew' instead of 'I would know'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Befml on Tue, 14/02/2023 - 18:10

Permalink

Hello,
Could you please tell me if it is possible to use either Will or Going to in the following examples? Is there any difference in meaning if you use one or the other?

As part of their future plans, NASA will reach new milestones that will change the world.
Firstly, astronauts 1a. are going to go/1b.will go back to the Moon as part of the Artemis programme. This time, NASA plans to leave the astronauts on the Moon as long as possible because this 2a. is going to prepare/2b. will prepare them for longer journeys further into space.
The private company Space 3a. is going to provide/3.b will provide Starship-its most powerful space launch ever created- for NASA’s Moon mission.
So, these ambitious plans to go to the Moon, the Sun and Mars are no longer the stuff of fantasy. Who knows what will be next? What’s for sure is that NASA 4a. is going to continue/4b. will continue to explore the universe for signs of life.
Thank you very much for your help.

Hello Befml,

We're happy to help you understand these different verb forms, but could you please first tell us what you think the correct answers are and why? Or if you're not sure, tell us why you think both forms could work. We'll be able to help you better if we can see what you think.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello Kirk,
Sure, I´ll do my best. This is how I see it:

First example, both options are possible:
1a. are going to go back= a future plan/ intention within the Artemis programme (the first step in the programme )
b.will go= a future fact. As part of the Artemis programme that event will definitely happen.

Second example, I would use Will:
2b. Will prepare= a future fact, leaving the astronauts on the Moon for some time trains them for longer journeys, so ‘will prepare’ expresses that the preparation will actually take place.

Third example, both options are possible:

3a. is going to provide= a future plan/ intention (the company intends to do so)
b. will provide= a future fact (the company Space cooperates with NASA, and they will definitely count on the Starship for their mission).

Fourth example, both options are possible:
4a. is going to continue= a future plan/ intention
b. will continue= a future fact (NASA will be exploring the universe for signs of life in the future without a doubt).

Thank you very much.

Hello Befml,

Thanks, that's very helpful. You've nailed it! I agree with every one of your assessments. Here are a few more comments in case they help.

Regarding 1, the 'going to' form reflects the fact there is a plan and so is appropriate. The 'will' form can also work as a future fact, and it would also make sense since it follows on from 'will' in the previous sentence. I'm not sure which of these two I'd use, but probably 'will', though really either is fine.

Regarding 2, the 'going to' form isn't really appropriate because the preparation isn't really a plan here; it's a fact.

Regarding 3 and 4, both forms can work, though I think I'd go with 'will' as it aligns better with the tone of the text in general.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 23/12/2022 - 15:56

Permalink

Hello. Could you please help me? Are the two forms Ok? Some teachers say that the latter is not correct.
- I don't know when the meeting starts.
- I don't know when the meeting will start.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The first sentence is much more common but it is possible to use 'will' after when (or if) when you want to emphasise choice or decision:

> I don't know when the meeting starts > here you are talking about the normal/scheduled start time.

> I don't know when the meeting will start > here you are talking about a decision or choice. Perhaps the meeting is delayed and you are waiting for someone to start it, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Tue, 20/12/2022 - 16:05

Permalink

Hello!

Could you please explain the following examples of the Future Presrent usage
(if they are correct, of course)

A women is coming to the inquiry desk officer at the eailway station, asking

- Will the train arrive soon?
- Yes, it will arrive in 5 minutes.

The thing challeging my understaning is that this dialogue is happening at the inquiry desk, the officer of which must know for certain about train's arrival as well as the woman asking must be certain about the officer's knowledge. It's difficult for me to understand whether this usage of the Future Simple belongs to hopes, belifiefs, promises, offers or spontenuous decisions.

The second situation is almost the same, but at the hospital reception

- Will Dr. Heal be here soon?
Yes, he'll be here in twenty minutes.

Again, the receptionist must know for sure about the doctor's arrival. And again, I can't figure out the reason for usage of "will".

I'm sorry for sending my previous post unfinished by mistake.

Thank you so much for the job you're doing, and thank you for the answer to this question beforehand!!!

Hello again howtosay_,

In addition to speaking about hopes, beliefs, promises, offers and spontaneous decisions, we can use 'will' to make predictions and to talk about things we think are certain. In both of the situations you ask about here, it looks to me as if the speakers are confident about the arrival times of the train and the doctor. 

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fcabanillasa on Tue, 01/11/2022 - 08:33

Permalink

Hello,

I would like to know the difference between the following examples and if they are correct to be used:
1. The train leaves at four this afternoon.
2. The train will leave at four this afternoon.
3. The train willbe leaving at four this afternoon.

Thanks a lot!!

Hi fcabanillasa,

Yes, all three sentences are correct. Sentence 1 is a factual statement. It sounds like the person is simply describing a timetabled or scheduled event. Sentence 2 is a belief about the future. It gives the idea that this statement is correct according to the speaker's knowledge (while sentence 1 gives the idea that "the train leaves at four" is a universal fact, independent of the speaker's knowledge). 

Sentence 3 (future continuous) is also used to describe scheduled events.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan,

Could you please give me more examples of when and how to use the future simple and continuous to describe scheduled events. Could we, for example, say 'the train will arrive at the station/will be arriving at the station' as the train approaches said station. I ask this as I have heard it being announced while travelling by train in capital cities around Europe and had up until now always interpreted it as a common mistake.

Best regards,
Paula

Hi Paula,

That's very observant of you! There are a number of factors to consider here.

First of all, if you hear 'Train 26 from Berlin will arrive at 20:10' (or something similar) over the PA system in a train station or on board a train, it's not really talking about the timetable, but rather confirming it -- it's making a statement about an imminent event, or perhaps a prediction.

If you hear a continuous form 'Train 26 from Berlin will be arriving at 20:10', again, it's probably not talking about the timetable. Like the 'will arrive' form, it's talking about an imminent event, but it's imagining the event in a different way. It's hard to say exactly what meaning the continuous form shows without knowing the situation, but it could, for example, talking about an arrival time that is different from normal. This is a common use of a continuous form. 

As you can see, the verb form we use reflects how we conceive of the event that we're talking about. If we're thinking about a timetable, as if the comings and goings of the trains are like a machine, we use a present simple form to reflect this regularity. But if we're thinking about an event that we expect to occur, we use a future form to reflect this.

Finally, it's also possible that what you hear on the continent is more of an international style of English, which sometimes uses grammar in a slightly different way.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Meliora on Sun, 03/04/2022 - 22:38

Permalink

Hello! I have a question. In one of the exercises in my book there was this sentence: The shop is closing for good next Monday.
I also encountered this question: "When does the festival finish?" "Tomorrow"
These two sentences look quite similar to me and both of them refer to programs in the future. So why aren't we using the same tense for both of them? I mean, is it grammatically incorrect to say: "The shop closes for good next Monday"? Or why can't we say "The festival is finishing tomorrow"?
Thanks in advance!

Hello Meliora,

Future forms are very much dependent on the context and how the speaker sees a given action or situation, so there is often a choice for the speaker.

In your examples, which form is appropriate depends on how the speaker sees the actions:

  • The present simple (closes/finishes) describes an event which is part of a regular schedule or which has been fixed as a part of the calendar and will not or cannot be changed.
  • The present continuous (is closing/is finishing) describes an event which has been arranged by agreement between two or more parties, but which could still be revised.

In your examples both forms are possible; it depends how the speaker sees the situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fadi.kazan on Sat, 12/03/2022 - 16:34

Permalink

Hello dears,

I have an inquiry;
- Joe has inherited a lot of money. He ...... (buy) a new villa next month.
Which is better to use here, will or is going to?

Thanks

Hello fadi.kazan,

It really depends on the context, but in most cases, 'is going to' would be the best answer here. This is because 'be going to' is used to speak about a plan, whereas 'will' is for a decision made in the moment, or predictions, which seem unlikely in this situation.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aeg on Thu, 10/02/2022 - 10:16

Permalink

Hi, can you please help me with this sentence.
I.......(AM MENDING/AM GOING TO MEND) your sweater this afternoon. I've noticed it's full of holes.
They both look acceptable for me.... Not sure which one to choose.

Hello aeg,

In most situations, 'am going to mend' is the best form to use. It means that you plan or intend to mend the sweater this afternoon.

You can see an explanation of the different forms we use to talk about the future on our Future plans page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HieuNT on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 15:27

Permalink

Hello the LearnEnglish Team,

I have some questions about using different tenses to talk about the future.

1) Is there any differences in meaning, implication or emphasis between using "Present Continuous" and "Future Continuous" when we talk about planned activities or events? For example:

a> We will be leaving / are leaving for Istanbul at 7.00 in the evening.
b> The professor will be giving / is giving the first presentation at the conference. (No time indicator)

2) As I read in the book "Oxford Guide to English Grammar", we can use the Future Continuous to talk about a routine or a habitual actions. So what the differences between using Future Continuous and Present Simple when we talk about a habits or routine? For example:

c> "Like every Saturday, I'll be playing football with my friends" vs. "I play football with my friends on Saturday".

d> "We'll be spending the holidays in Lanzarote as usual" vs. "Each July, we go to Lanzarote for a holiday".

e> "I will be having lunch in the canteen as usual" vs "I usually have lunch in the canteen".

Many thanks,
Hieu Nguyen

Can anyone from the LearnEnglish Team please clear my doubts? I really don't want to repost my question on another lesson :(

Hello HieuNT,

We'll certainly get to your questions soon. You've been asking lots of quite extensive questions lately. We're happy to help, but we have lots of other work and users to attend to, so we generally only answer one question per user per day.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Mr. Kirk,

Thank you for replying. I know your team are busy and there are other users with questions need answering just like me.

I didn't mean to sound demanding or so... I hope you guys will understand. You all have been really helpful and I really appreciate your help.

Please come back to this question when you have time.

Look forward to your answer.
Hieu Nguyen

Hello HieuNT,

To answer your first question, most of the time, exactly what a future continuous form means as compared to a present continuous depends on the context and/or how the speaker is thinking of the action. For example, in the case of sentence a>, if I had my diary open and was speaking with you to try to schedule a phone call, the present continuous form would probably make more sense, as in that situation we're comparing plans and trying to make another plan.

But if you told me that our group of friends is having a group video call at 7.00 that evening and you insist that I join it, I might use a future continuous form is I'm thinking of all the different things that I'll likely be in the middle of doing at 7.00 -- maybe I'll be finishing packing my bag, loading up the car, trying to get the kids out the door, etc. In this case, I see that moment as one full of activity rather than as an appointment, and the future continuous expresses this idea in a way the present continuous does not.

The same difference in the way we think about the event applies to routines or habitual actions: if we're thinking more of the calendar and our plans as blocks of activity, then the present simple makes more sense; but if we're thinking of the things we are likely to be doing at a time, then the future continuous works better.

That doesn't explain all of the possible shades of meaning that a future continuous form can give, but that at least gives an idea of what it can indicate. Hope it helps you make more sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again, Mr. Kirk,

Your explanation was very clear and easy to understand. Thank you!!

Have a good day, sir.
Hieu Nguyen

Submitted by melvinthio on Sat, 08/01/2022 - 15:29

Permalink

Hi Jonathan,
In the last week of December 2021, I posted a question on this page about "to be going to", but I haven't yet seen my question nor your answer posted here.
Please let me know whether you have received it.
Best regards,

Profile picture for user Prap

Submitted by Prap on Tue, 18/05/2021 - 15:22

Permalink
What does the speaker mean when they say 'Peter kissing the cameraman is the best scene you will ever see'? I confuse it with expressions like 'Peter kissing the cameraman is the best scene you have ever seen'. Thanks in advance!

Hi Prap,

Both of these expressions emphasise how uniquely good this scene is. The first one refers to the future, meaning something like 'in your life, you won't see anything better than this'. This is a belief about the future (see more examples of this on the page above). The second one refers to the past until the present moment. It means that until now, you have never seen a better scene than this. It's more common to use this with the first person (the best scene I've ever seen), because I know my own experiences but I may not know what experiences another person has had.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Prap

Submitted by Prap on Thu, 20/05/2021 - 16:21

In reply to by Jonathan R

Permalink
Now I've got it. Thanks a lot!

Submitted by ngaianna on Mon, 22/03/2021 - 02:50

Permalink
From the above notes, it states that we normally use the present tense for something scheduled, e.g. 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. If I use future tense, e.g. My parents' anniversary will be on next Friday. Next Friday will be my birthday. Tomorrow will be Friday. I will visit Ocean Park. Are these OK?

Hello ngaianna,

You can generally use 'will' in this way. It describes each thing as a single event rather than a repeated, regular or scheduled event, but it's not wrong to do that. The exception, I think, is when we talk about very fixed patterns such as days of the week. It's not grammatically wrong to say 'Tomorrow will be Friday' but it sounds very unusual to my ear.

As an aside, we don't use prepositions with 'last' or 'next', so we wouldn't say 'on next Friday' but rather just 'next Friday'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigido on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 11:07

Permalink
Hi team, I am confused for example''If I work hard,I"ll be able to pass my exam."I don't understand the main difference - will - and -will be able to-.I am not sure Can you tell me what's the difference?
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 06:39

In reply to by Yigido

Permalink

Hi Yigido,

They are similar! But there is a difference. If you say I'll pass my exam, you are focusing on the exam result only. But if you say I'll be able to pass my exam, you're stating that you have the ability (e.g. the knowledge or the skills) to pass the exam. So, the focus is on your personal ability, as well as the exam result.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigido on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 08:36

In reply to by Jonathan R

Permalink
Teacher,Why I am saying I am stating my ability?or When I should state my ability?

Hi Yigido,

The word able means 'to have the ability to do something', so if you say I'll be able to pass my exam, it includes this meaning.

About your second question, it really depends on what you want to say as a speaker or writer! If you want to just focus on the exam result, then say I'll pass my exam. You could say this if, for example, this is part of a conversation where you tell somebody all about the exam (e.g. how difficult it will be, what the questions might be, and so on).

But, in other situations, I would say I'll be able to pass my exam. For example, if I am reflecting on my progress in my studies, then I need to consider not only my exam results but also the development of my abilities (e.g. knowledge or skills). So, this sentence fits well here.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 19:53

In reply to by Jonathan R

Permalink
Dear Jonathan. In you sentence you said: "if you say..., you are focusing on... What is the difference if saying " if you said..., you would focuse on..."?

Hi Plokonyo,

If you say ... frames this as a real situation. I'm referring to the person really saying this in his/her real life. If you said ... frames it as just an imagined (i.e. hypothetical) situation that doesn't necessarily happen in his/her real life. Both phrases and meanings could be used here, but using If you said ... suggests that the situation is unlikely to happen.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MPhayTp on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 15:40

Permalink
I'm going to London with my friends the next day. I'll be going to London with my friends the next day. Do they have the same meaning? Can I use one with my option?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The meanings are very similar and the forms are often interchangeable, depending on the context and the speaker's intention.

 

Going to have several uses. It can be used to express an intention or a plan on the part of the speaker, describing something we have chosen to do. It can also describe the anticipated result of a present situation: I can see dark clouds, so it's going to rain.

 

Will be + verb-ing also has more than one use, but the relevant use here is to express an expectation. We use it to describe something that seems to the speaker to be part of the expected or normal sequence of events. A prediction of the weather based on what is typical would use this form, for example: In November it will be snowing in the mountains.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team