Future continuous and future perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like I'll be studying or I'll have finished?

Look at these examples to see how the future continuous and future perfect are used.

In three years' time, I'll be studying medicine.
In five years' time, I'll have finished studying medicine.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Future continuous and future perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Future continuous

We can use the future continuous (will/won't be + -ing form) to talk about future actions that: 

  • will be in progress at a specific time in the future:

When you come out of school tomorrow, I'll be boarding a plane.
Try to call before 8 o'clock. After that, we'll be watching the match.
You can visit us during the first week of July. I won't be working then.

  • we see as new, different or temporary:

Today we're taking the bus but next week we'll be taking the train.
He'll be staying with his parents for several months while his father is in recovery.
Will you be starting work earlier with your new job?

Future perfect

We use the future perfect simple (will/won't have + past participle) to talk about something that will be completed before a specific time in the future.

The guests are coming at 8 p.m. I'll have finished cooking by then.
On 9 October we'll have been married for 50 years.
Will you have gone to bed when I get back?

We can use phrases like by or by the time (meaning 'at some point before') and in or in a day's time / in two months' time / in five years' time etc. (meaning 'at the end of this period') to give the time period in which the action will be completed.

I won't have written all the reports by next week.
By the time we arrive, the kids will have gone to bed.
I'll have finished in an hour and then we can watch a film.
In three years' time, I'll have graduated from university.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Future continuous and future perfect: Grammar test 2

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Submitted by Ayn on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 06:14

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Hello! Which one is correct? A)I will turn 20 in 2 weeks' time. B)I am turning 20 in 2 weeks' time. C)I am gonna turn 20 in 2 weeks' time. D)I will be turning 20 in 2 weeks' time. I think the answer is A, because we use future simple for the things which will definetly happen and we cannot control, but the answer is D. I am confused.Can you help please?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 08:30

In reply to by Ayn

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Hello Ayn,

All of those sentences are correct. Future forms are often a matter of choice: how the speaker sees the action and what the speaker chooses to emphasise. Without any context to indicate this, you could use any of these forms and none of them are impossible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can you explain how D is possible please?

Hello again Ayn,

We often use [will be + verb-ing] to talk about things that occur as part of the normal course of events. This form signals that we expect something to happen and see it as normal and unsurprising.

 

You can read more about future forms on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/talking-about-the-future

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir, but I think we can use future simple for the things which will definetly happen and not surprising, can't we? In the grammar book I have been looking for, it was written that we use future simple for the things which will definetly happen and we cannot control.

Hello again Ayn,

Yes, we can. As I said, future forms are often a matter of choice. The speaker can choose from several possibilities, depending on the context and the speaker's intention. In some contexts there may be a difference in meaning but in others only a difference in emphasis. This is why context is so important and why exercises which do not provide a context are often not very helpful.

 

For example:

I'll have dinner at 4.00.

I'll be having dinner at 4.00.

Here there is a difference. In the first sentence, the meal starts at 4.00. In the second sentence the meal will be in progress at 4.00 and will start earlier than this.

 

I will turn 20 in two weeks.

I'll be turning 20 in two weeks.

Here the only difference is one of style and emphasis.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jaiime_edg on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 14:51

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Is this rewrite correct? Peter’s class starts at 7. At 7.30 Peter will have started the class. Or should it be By 7.30?

Hello Jaiime_edg,

Both versions of the sentence (with 'At' and 'By') are grammatically correct, though 'by' is probably better here. I'd recommend something like 'Class will have started by 7.30'. This doesn't communicate exactly the same information as the original sentence, but it's pretty close.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jaiime_edg on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 14:50

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Hello this tests are very good because I am of de calle

Submitted by David7417 on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 19:16

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Hello, I have troubles understanding in which situations should I use following sentences. I am reading a book tomorrow. I will be reading a book tomorrow. I am going to be reading a book tomorrow.

Hello David7417,

It's difficult to explain these sorts of differences without a specific context or the speaker's intentions, but maybe this will help. The first and third sentences could be used to indicate that you plan to read a book tomorrow. The first one makes it sound as if you have a very firm plan that will not change; the third one is less firm, but clearly states your intention to read the book.

The second one could be used in many different contexts, but in general it shows that you're thinking about tomorrow as a period of time in which you'll be reading. It could be that you planned to be reading (as in the first and third sentences) and someone asks you if you'll join them for lunch as usual, but you say that you can't because you'll be reading a book tomorrow.

But there are many other possible situations in which you could use a continuous form. I'd suggest you pay attention for this form as you read and listen to texts in English so that you can analyse how it's used.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mikel on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 15:48

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Is this rewrite correct? Peter’s class starts at 7. At 7.30 Peter will have started the class. Or should it be By 7.30?

Hello mikel,

Both at and by are possible here.

In both sentences you are looking back and speculating about a past event.

If you say at then you are suggesting that the class began at 7.30 and are looking back from a later point (7.45, 8.00 etc).

If you say by then you are saying that the class started before this time, but you do not know exactly when.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sokhom on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 18:39

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Hello, Sir I was wondering if the sentences are correct: '- This building will have been finishing next month.' '- This building will have finished by next month.' Thank you.

Hi Sokhom,

No, we need to change to This building will have been finished by next month. It's the passive voice in the future perfect (will have been + past participle).

It needs the passive because the verb finish refers to 'building work', which needs either a personal subject (e.g. The builders will have finished the building by next month) or to be in the passive (e.g. This building will have been finished).

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 04:24

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Hello, I'm confused about how to use "be" and "have". In grammar test 2: 7. Let's call Rory. He'll be arrived by now. (This is my answer but it's incorrect.) Why can't I use the word "be" in the previous sentence? Thanks a lot

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 05:12

In reply to by Via

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Hi Via,

Good question! Be doesn't work here because be arrived is a passive structure (be + past participle). The passive doesn't make sense with arrived - we can't say, for example, Rory was arrived by (someone)

This sentence needs the future perfect. Although the time reference refers to the time up to the present (by now), not the time up to a future time, we also use will to show our beliefs about the present (see more examples here). That's why have is the answer here.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 22:29

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Yes, it make sense. Thank you.

Submitted by Tshewang Rinzin on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 02:21

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I have poor in garmmer

Hi Tshewang Rinzin,

Don't worry! Everyone here is here to learn and improve. If this page is too difficult, you can try lower level grammar here.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by samira_kitten on Thu, 01/10/2020 - 11:18

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hello could you please explain the differences between in ten years' time vs in the next ten years? which one is the exact time in the future? thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 08:04

In reply to by samira_kitten

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Hello samira_kitten,

In ten years' time denotes a precise time in the future: ten years from now (the moment of speaking).

In the next ten years is less precise. It means any time within the next ten years, so it could be in an hour or in nine years and eleven months.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lakshmi94216 on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 09:33

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The show has lost traction with views and will not be returning for another season. Could I say "will not return? Thanks so much.

Submitted by AsahiYo20 on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 18:29

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I would like to ask why the future continuous tense is used in the following sentence. Could I use the simple future tense instead? "Some very attractive properties will be coming onto the market next month."

Hello AsahiYo20,

The future continuous is used here to express the speaker's expectation. It is a prediction about the future based upon what the speaker knows, similar to going to.

While going to would express a future based upon present evidence, the future continuous expresses an expectation based upon the speaker's knowledge and experience.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher, Thank you for your detailed reply! I would like to ask a number of follow-up questions 1. According to a grammar book I have read, "will" is used for predictions that are talking about how our opinions/experience, while "be going to" is more about predictions on the basis of present evidence. Could I simply say the distinction is one between subjective evidence (for "will") and objective evidence (for "be going to")? 2. You said the future continuous expresses an expectation based upon the speaker's knowledge and experience. Does that mean the future continuous tense has the meaning as the simple future tense when it comes to prediction, and that I could use the latter in the sentence I have quoted? 3. I have a feeling that in the case of prediction, the degree of conviction conveyed by the simple future tense is higher than the future continuous tense. Is it a correct distinction?

Hi again AshahiYo20,

It's important to remember that the use of future forms in English is very nuanced and often dependent on the speaker's perspective rather than objective facts in the world. Attempts to tie usage down to very specific situations or elements of meaning tend to fall afoul of this. However, it is useful to identify certain tendencies.

 

1. I think this is accurate to a degree, though I'm not sure the distinction between subjective and objective evidence is necessarily one which is clear and unambiguous.

2. Yes, you could use will + verb here. It would indicate a greater degree of certainty, in my opinion.

3. Yes, I think this is true.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saher on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 00:54

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Hi Can you please explain this sentence from content. On 9 October we'll have been married for 50 years. Isn't this sentence is future perfect passive voice ? We can't say it is future perfect tense , it should be labelled as future perfect passive. isn't it so?

Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 02:49

In reply to by saher

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Hi saher, Actually, it is the future perfect (of the verb 'be'), but it's not the passive voice. In this sentence, 'married' would usually be classified as an adjective – not a passive verb. These two forms look the same, but here's the difference: - 'be' + 'married' (adjective) means the state of being married (rather than not married). - 'be' + 'married' ('marry' in the passive voice) means receiving the act of marriage (in an official ceremony, for example). This second meaning doesn't fit the example sentence, because of 'for 50 years'. The length of time refers to the state of being married rather than the act of being married. Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cms10 on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 12:04

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Hello, Could you please explain the use of the future continuous tense in the following two sentences? In particular, whether I could use simple future tense instead? 1. Could you ascertain whether she will be coming to the meeting? 2. We will be forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. Thanks!

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 07:55

In reply to by cms10

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Hello cms10,

You could use [will verb] in each of those sentences.

 

The form [will be verb-ing] has several uses. It is often used to describe an arrangement which has not yet been made but is sure. It can help to compare it to the present continuous:

We are forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. [the procedure to do this has already started]

We will be forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. [the procedure to do this has not started but is sure to]

The difference between [will verb] and [will be verb-ing] is often one of nuance and emphasis rather than objective fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply. I have two additional questions: 1. You said the difference between [will] [will be -ing] is often one of nuance and emphasis. Am I correct to say that [will be -ing] makes a sentence less definite (or in other words, tentative) compared with [will]? 2. I read from a grammar book that the present continuous tense can be used to describe an event in the future which has already been arranged by the time of speaking. Am I correct to say that the difference between the present continuous tense and future continuous tense lies in whether arrangements regarding the future event has been made? Thanks.

Hello cms10,

1. Yes, I think that's generally correct, though of course the context of any particular utterance is important. Will tends to imply a high degree of conviction, whether that is in the form of a personal conviction (a belief) or a personal obligation (a promise).

2. In many cases, yes. However, I would advise against tying the distinction between the two forms too closely to real-world criteria. It's really often a choice based on how the speaker sees or feels about the situation rather than a question of objective fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asni on Sun, 26/07/2020 - 22:42

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Hello, Could you please explain further the use of the future continuous? I don't understand its use in the following examples. And if I just use the simple tense,would it be correct? -..Ali will be singing... -He'll be staying with his parents for several months.... -Will you be starting work earlier with your new job? I read some comments and I can understand that when a decision is made it is the simple tense and when it a prediction, guess... it is the continuous tense.. In the example 'I'm afraid I won't be coming tonight' I suppose that the speaker is not sure and hasn't made a decision yet. But in the above examples I can't really see why?

Submitted by brian1010 on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 14:59

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Hi teachers, I would like to ask why the following three sentences use the future continuous tense instead of the simple future tense: 1. Some flyers, particularly business travellers, will be reassessing how much flying they need to do in future. 2. The company will not be changing its policies that allow lying in paid political advertisements. 3. We will be asking her to investigate whether there have been supervisory failures and if so to set out a possible course of action Thanks.

Hi brian1010,

When we talk about something that is organised for the future we often us the present continuous:

She's leaving at 6.00 on Friday.

This is something that is certain in my mind. It's already arranged and set.

Will is used when we want to speculate or make a guess or prediction. Thus, if I'm not sure about when the person is leaving I can say this:

She'll be leaving at 6.00 on Friday.

Your examples work in a similar way. The speaker (writer) is speculating about the response of various people to a given situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher, Thank you for your reply. If the future continuous tense in those sentences is changed to the simple future tense, would it be grammatically incorrect, and would there be any change in meaning? Thank you.

Hello again brian1010,

You can use the simple form in each example. I would say that the continuous form suggests an expectation which, to my ear, has a lower degree of certainty than the simple form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dastenova Firuza on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 16:31

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I repeated the rules and tenewed my knowledge. Thank you.

Submitted by Teresa R. on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 17:23

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Hello. I still have troubles understanding the difference between future continuous and future simple. Whenever I come across the future continuous in books and movies I ask myself: “Would it be correct if I used the future simple instead?” For example, in this excerpt from “Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban” the author used this tense: MINISTRY OF MAGIC EMPLOYEE SCOOPS GRAND PRIZE Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, has won the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw. A delighted Mr. Weasley told the Daily Prophet, “We will be spending the gold on a summer holiday in Egypt, where our eldest son, Bill, works as a curse breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank.” I don’t understand why is “we will be spending” and not “we will spend”. Would it mean a different thing if it was future simple? Also in this book Hermione talks about how little she likes Divination, because this subject is not based on facts and the teacher is a little bit too dramatic, and she uses the future continuous: If being good at Divination means I have to pretend to see death omens in a lump of tea leaves, I’m not sure I’ll be studying it much longer! That lesson was absolute rubbish compared with my Arithmancy class!” Why does she use “I’ll be studying?” I thought the future simple must be used for strong intentions. Can you help me understand this difference?

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 06:42

In reply to by Teresa R.

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Hello Sarah Word,

Very often both will and will be verb-ing are possible in the same sentence. The choice depends on how the speaker sees the action.

 

Will implies a decision which is made at or around the time of speaking, or else a guess, prediction or belief about the future.

We will spend the gold on a summer holiday in Egypt, where our eldest son, Bill, works as a curse breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank.”

If Mr. Weasley said this, then we would understand that this was a decision he was making as or just before he spoke.

Similarly, in the second example, Hermione would be talking about her choice or decision.

 

Will be verb-ing is a little different. We often use it to describe something we see as a natural or expected result of a particular situation. It tells us something is expected and unsurprising, or an obvious conclusion.

When Mr. Weasley says we'll be spending it on..., we understand that for him this is an obvious and natural choice.

Similarly, when Hermione says I don't think I'll be studying it much longer, she is implying that this is the obvious result of her poor experience in Divination classes to date.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cittàutopica on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 17:25

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Can you explain because in sentence "7. Let's call Rory. He'll .... arrived by now", the right answer is "have" but no "has"? Thanks.

Hello cittàutopica,

The reason have is needed is because we have the auxiliary will. To make a perfect modal verb we use havewill have, should have, could have, might hate etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lovely_indeed on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 02:36

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Hi! I have a question about Q5 from Test 2. The right answer is: 5. I'm afraid I [won't] be coming tonight. I have a meeting until late. However, I don't see why it must be future continuous. Is it grammatically wrong to say: "I'm afraid I'm not coming tonight."? Would anyone tell me what is the difference between "I won't be coming" and "I'm not coming"?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 07:04

In reply to by Lovely_indeed

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Hello Lovely_Indeed

You're right -- 'I'm not coming' is also a possible correct form here, though of course it doesn't fit in the gap. In fact, in some of the other sentences other forms are also possible, but the gaps limit the answers you can write.

It's a difficult to explain the difference between 'I won't be coming' and 'I'm not coming' without knowing the precise context, but in general it's a matter of how the speaker views the time she is talking about. 'I'm not coming' is a simple statement of a plan, but 'I won't be coming' can imply, for example, that the speaker is thinking of how she's going to be sitting in a meeting at the time she had planned to go to a party. In other words, she's thinking of actions in progress at a specific time later that evening. 

So both sentences communicate the basic idea that she's not going, but using the future continuous form can communicate subtle ideas as well.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 17:22

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Hello. Which form is correct in the following sentence, please? Why - By 2025, solar heating (will be used - will have been used ) in home and industry. Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think will be used is the most likely option here. Will have been used would suggest that its use had ended, unless you add a duration: will have been used for over twenty years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NinaZ on Mon, 04/05/2020 - 12:04

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Hello, I would like to know if this sentence contains a will progressive (future continuous), if so could you explain why the form in question is used. Thank you. Police will be watching you when N.J. parks, golf courses reopen Saturday

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 07:09

In reply to by NinaZ

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Hello NinaZ,

Will be watching describes an action in progress rather than a single complete action – presumably, the police will be watching while people play their games to ensure that they follow the rules.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team