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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.


Just confirm me what i understood

would - should use only in past tense(is there any exception for it - using that in future sentence when we are not sure about that matter)


Hi bharathviki,

The modal verb 'would' can be used with past, present or future meanings, depending on the context. This page describes various ways of talking about the future, of which 'would' is one. For other uses of 'would' take a look at our pages on modal verbs and their uses.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


I was reading an article on the Economist and bumped into this sad news item:

María José Alvarado, who was to represent Honduras in the Miss World beauty pageant in London in December, was murdered along with her sister.

My question is about the "be (was)+ to-infinitive". I thought that this construction should be used when the arranged event eventually took place while if the event did not actually happened the correct tense/construction should be "was+to+perfect infinitive" hence
"M.J.A, who was to have represented Honduras..."

I'm a little bit puzzled. Can you please shed some light?


Btw: supposed to is not followed by have done - in this context.

It was supposed to rain today, according to the weather forecast. Not:
It was supposed to have rained..

However.. In the sense of "people believed it was true.."
He was thought to have been a Viking warrior, but we can't prove it.


I wouldn't use supposed to have been. It sounds ambiguous.

It's an imperative structure. You might hear it in James Bond films:
"Bond, you are to find Goldfinger and destroy his bass. It's out of tune."

So.. You are to do something is an instruction.

In the past tense we was/were + to + infinitive, but it sounds like someone died and so the arrangement was never completed.

If something didn't happen for other reasons, it's probably better to use "supposed to.."

You're late! You were supposed to be here half an hour ago.
I was supposed to pay that bill last week.

should have (done) works here, too.

Hello Knightrider,

In this context, there is no clear difference between the two forms, though the second example, as a perfect form, suggests that the action was to be done by a certain time. The construction expresses expectation (similar to 'supposed to') and the past form 'was' tells us that the expectation was in the past in both cases. Although the construction is generally used to express an action which did not take place ('I was to... but did not'), strictly speaking in neither case do we know whether or not the action took place. It is quite acceptable to say:

I was supposed to finish the work... and I did!

I was supposed to have finished the work... and I have!

I hope that clarifies it for you. You may want to visit our sister-site, TeachingEnglish, which is aimed at teachers of English and may be helpful to you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter.

I seem to understand that the distinction is not as clear-cut as I thought it was. Your reply has been extremely helpful. Thanks also for the link.

All the best.


Hi!I want to know that why the present tense is used in the following question.
"When does the next boat leave?"

Sorry for disturbing you.

hello Senju,

Don't worry about disturbing us - we're happy to help! Your sentence is an example of the present simple used with future meaning to describe scheduled or timetabled events. We use this form when we are talking about train timetables, for example, or regular meeting times.

You can find more information and examples, plus an exercise to practise this and other future forms, on our page on talking about the future.

Best wishes



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the knowledge.Now i get it.