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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


Talking about the future 2


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.


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.


The LearnEnglish Team

Now I've got it. Thanks a lot!

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'.



The LearnEnglish Team

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?

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?


The LearnEnglish Team

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.


The LearnEnglish Team

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