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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

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Talking about the future 2

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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.

Comments

Hello could please tell me is this sentence correct :(I will be waiting for him at the airport until he arrives)
And thanks

Hi Malek,

Yes, that sentence is correct - great work!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir Peter M,
as you said that ( In modern English, 'will' is more common and 'shall' sounds quite formal and often old-fashioned. In most contexts there is no difference in the meaning, however we cannot use 'shall' to describe typical behaviour/habits: )
but i thing here the meaning is being changed in the usages of "will" & "shall" as following sentences,
(A)= will we get a cup of coffee in this hotel ?
(B)= shall we get a cup of coffee in this hotel ?
its something like according to my knowledge in (A) its something like this that they serve coffee in this hotel to us or not, like speculations, may be they serve may be not, but in (B) that asking about we will take coffee here or not ? isn`t it like this sir ?

Hi Baloch Faisal,

That is correct, and there are other differences as well, as I said in my earlier reply. The example you provide here is a functional use of 'shall' as a way of making requests, which is not really the focus of this page ('talking about the future').

If you take a look at the link in the earlier reply then you'll see a more comprehensive list.  Unfortunately, we must deal with a large number of queries and comments here on LearnEnglish every day and we simply don't have the time to provide with comprehensive grammatical explanations in the comments sections.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi Sir,
where we use "shall" and "will" ?
often people say that use "shall" for "i" and "we", for "he", "she", "it" use "will",
but there are some phrases like where for "he"or "she" the word "shall" is used like
A=(according to constitution the president who shall be the head of state and shall represent the unity of the republic) so how and in which sense "shall" is used here ?
and also there are phrases like
B=(i will help you, whenever you need my help, i will be standing with you) so if we were used "shall" here in stead of "will" would it be incorrect or the meaning would be changed ? pleases explain both phrases A and B to me.

Hello Baloch Faisal,

The traditional rule which you refer to ('shall' for first person use) is not accurate; speakers in all varieties of English use both 'shall' and 'will' with all subject pronouns and nouns.  In modern English, 'will' is more common and 'shall' sounds quite formal and often old-fashioned.  In most contexts there is no difference in the meaning, however we cannot use 'shall' to describe typical behaviour/habits:

He will (not shall) often work late into the night.

This is the most common distinction, but there are some other differences in use in specific contexts and there is a distinction in use in legal English.  For a detailed summary of this, see this page.

In both of your sentences it is possible to use both 'shall' and 'will'.  As the first sentence is much more formal 'shall' is perhaps more likely.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir Peter M,
that page you referred me, it is wikipedia free encyclopedia, if i was that much intelligent to understand things individually without any help, then i would not asked you,

Hello Baloch Faisal,

As I said in a previous reply, we must deal with a large number of queries and comments here on LearnEnglish every day and it's simply not possible for us to provide comprehensive grammatical explanations in the comments sections.  Our role here is to provide help for learners in terms of understanding and using the materials on the site, and to provide help with specific queries about language items - as we have in this case.  However, we cannot provide language lessons in the comments as we have to reply to large numbers of questions every day.  Therefore, while we are happy to give help on particular examples and/or issues, we aren't able to detail every feature of a given language area such as every possible use of shall and will, and all the possible differences in use and meaning.  That, really, is a job for a teacher and goes beyond the role of this site.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, about expressing the future I need to know if the follow sentences are correct:
A) You two look really shocked.What's the matter?
B)We've just learnt that we're having twins!
Thanks.

Hello pensionatostudente,

Both sentences look fine to me, though A doesn't refer to the future.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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