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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.


Hello thuuuv,
We use the present continuous for arrangements which we see as quite certain (as opposed to mere intentions or hopes). Future continuous can be used in a very similar way. The main difference, I think, is one of emphasis. The future continuous has more of a suggestion that the activity will be in progress at a particular time. For example:
> I'm visiting Paul tomorrow evening. [this is my plan]
> I'll be visiting Paul tomorrow evening. [this is what I'll be doing and so I can't do anything else]
I think the second sentence is more likely when the speaker wants to imply being busy or unavailable, as opposed to simply stating their plans. However, as I said, this is really a question of implication and interpretation. There would nothing wrong with using either form, even to a direct question about whether someone is free or not.
The LearnEnglish Team

In the number 1 explaination as you said "We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements"
Can we say? We have a party at christmas

Hello dw3222,
You can use the present simple ('have') here, but the meaning is different from the present continuous ('are having'):
> 'We have a party at Christmas' tells us what you usually do (every year).
> 'We are having a party at Christmas' tells us about your plans for a particular year (this Christmas).
The LearnEnglish Team


I had a question about the difference between will and going to, as it confuses me a lot.
Is there any difference between these two sentences:
1) What colour will you paint the children's bedroom?
2) What colour are you going to paint the children's bedroom?
I would really appreciate if you answered my question. Thanks in advance.

Hello Anias,
There is often a choice between forms when talking about the future. Several forms may be grammatically correct, and which is used will depend on the context and how the speaker sees the particular action.
In your example, both 'will' and 'going to' are possible.
'Going to' suggests that the person has considered the question before and already has an idea in their mind. 'Will' does not suggest this, and implies that the person is being asked to make a decision now.
You may find this page (Future Plans) helpful:
The LearnEnglish Team

Is there any future tense in English Language in fact like two other conventional tenses?

Hello Ataur Rahman,
No. Linguists distinguish two tenses in English. These are usually called present and past, though many linguists prefer the terms past and non-past. Instead of a tense, English uses a range of different forms to refer to future time.
Sometimes 'will' is described as the future tense, but 'will' is actually a modal verb like 'might', 'should' and 'may'. It functions in the same way and, like other modal verbs, it often refers to the future.

The LearnEnglish Team

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


The LearnEnglish Team

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