1. When we know about the future we normally use the present tense.

  • We use the present simple for something scheduled or arranged:

We have a lesson next Monday.
The train arrives at 6.30 in the morning.
The holidays start next week.
It is my birthday tomorrow.

  • 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.

2. We use will to talk about the future:

  • When we make predictions:

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.

3. We use (be) going to:

  • To talk about plans and intentions:

I’m going to drive to work today.
They are going to move to Manchester.

  • When we can see that something is likely to happen:

Be careful! You are going to fall.
Look at those black clouds. I think it’s going to rain.


4. 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.

5. 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.

6. We can use should if we think something is likely to happen:

We should be home in time for tea.
The game should be over by eight o’clock.

7. Clauses with time words:

In clauses with time words like when, after, and until we often use a present tense form 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.

8. Clauses with if:

In clauses with if we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

We won’t be able to go out if it rains.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.

WARNING: We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

I’ll come home when I will finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain rains.

But we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

9. We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous or going to for emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions:

They’ll be coming to see us next week.
I will be driving to work tomorrow.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team.
You have answered a large number of learners' questions so far. (Many thanks for being so helpful!) Beyond any doubt you have extensive experience. Could you please help once again? Taking into consideration the grammar explained above, do you think it is acceptable to say: The conference is starting at 9.15 in the City hall. INSTEAD OF The conference starts at 9.15 in the City hall. And The delegation is leaving London tonight at 11 a.m. INSTEAD OF The delegation leaves London tonight at 11 a.m.
I have looked through quite a few websites. Still, I haven't been lucky to find the answer. Some say it is quite possible to use Present Continuous in the sentences mentioned above as long as they refer to the near future. Is that true? Or it is ONLY Present Simple to be used in the sentences mentioned earlier? Your reply will be the ANSWER. Thank you very much.

Hello Yuriy UA

Both forms are grammatically correct, but one or the other is more correct or appropriate depending on the context, as is described above. If you are speaking about a timetable, the present simple is more appropriate, whereas, for example, if you want to emphasise that you need to to be in City Hall by 9.15 and you can see that your companions are moving slowly, the present continuous form could be appropriate.

English verb tenses (and verb tenses in all the languages I know, for that matter) have several different uses and context is always essential in determining which one to use.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. I greatly appreciate it. Do you think there is ANY context making the following sentence grammatically correct: "The delegation is reported to be leaving London tonight at 11 a.m." INSTEAD OF "The delegation is reported to leave London tonight at 11 a.m."? I hope desperately that you will reply.

Hello Yuriy UA,

The sentence

The delegation is reported to be leaving London tonight at 11 a.m.

is perfectly fine. It describes an existing arrangement.

 

The second sentence

The delegation is reported to leave London tonight at 11 a.m.

is not correct. We use is reported to to describe current events, not future events, and is followed by a continuous form unless the verb is a stative or modal verb.

To make the second sentence correct you need to refer it to the present. For example:

The delegation is reported to be planning leave London tonight at 11 a.m.

The delegation is reported to have a plan to leave London tonight at 11 a.m.

The delegation is reported to want to leave London tonight at 11 a.m.

The delegation is reported to be going to leave London tonight at 11 a.m.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Just been on the Teaching English site, brilliant just what I need. Thanks

Hi Kirk,
Thanks for the quick response and advice.

I am a TEFL teacher and I struggle to explain clearly the possible uses of the future tenses. Do you have a suggestion for a simplified way of delivering the uses of the future tenses, please?

Hello DM817

I might recommend not covering more than a couple of uses at a time and choosing two where there is a clear contrast or difference between them.

I'd also suggest checking our sister site, TeachingEnglish, and asking this same question there. I expect you will find some discussion of this topic there, and if not, you can ask the community of teachers there and get lots of ideas, I'm sure.

Good luck!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Can I say: close your eyes I will surprise you. Guess what I've bought for you
Or
close your eyes I'm going to surprise you. Guess what I've bought for you

Which is more natural
What he says today will change the next day. He eats his words
Or
What he says today changes the next day. He eats his words

Hello Shaban Nafea

It would be more natural to use 'going to' in this case since you are speaking about an intention and plan to surprise the other person.

In the second pair of sentences, if you are speaking about the way this person is in general -- in other words, if he does this kind of thing regularly -- then the second one (with present tense) would communicate this idea. The first one would be better for speaking about about one specific situation.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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