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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.


I am rather confused with subjunctive mood.

Like for example, "If I were a millionaire, I would..."

So should we say it as "If I were" or "If I was"?

There are other forums that said that one is british and one is american.

So which one is more commOn and will be right when used in examinations?

hi adam and stephen
"They are coming after they have had dinner".
pls explain this phrase to me:how we add have+had in one sentence
i dont understand ?

Hello kragchik!
When we want to talk about something that finished just BEFORE something else, we use present perfect. Here, they will come after they have had (eaten) dinner. It is the normal present perfect form, have +pp, but because it is have + had (pp of have), it looks a little confusing! You can read about the present perfect on our site.
Hope that's useful!
Jeremy Bee
The Learn English Team

Could you pls help me with the following sentence:
If it is convenient for you, we could meet tomorrow at 2 p.m.
So, we use 'can' in the past to say about the future. What is this - conditional? the subjunctive mood? something else?..
What are the grammar rules that explain usage of 'could' in such cases?
Where can I read more about similar grammar cases?
Thank you in advance!

i need to know what is the difference between
we would not be ablt to go out if it rained
we will not be able to go out if it rains

Hi Hamad,
The difference is that in the first sentence, the speaker is describing rain as something less likely than in the second sentence.
You can find more information about conditionals here and about the use of will and would here.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

hi.i have a question for you teacher.these are little bit confusing for me.what is the differences among these sentences.1. i am going to play football tomorrow.2 i am playing football tomorrow.i am planing to play football tomorrow.i will play football tomorrow.thanks

Hi falcon5217,

I'd encourage you to study the explanations above, as they present the differences between these verb forms. It's easier to understand the difference between verb forms when the context is clear, but here are the general differences.

Your sentence 1 and sentence 3 are basically identical in meaning. Sentence 2 is very similar in meaning to sentences 1 and 3, though with the additional idea that the football match is already arranged - for example, you've reserved a pitch to play on and have already agreed to meet other friends there at a certain time.

Out of context, it's difficult to say exactly what sentence 4 means, but it could be an offer or a promise. For example, if you don't really want to play football tomorrow but your friends need you to play, then you could say "OK, I'll play football tomorrow". In that case, you are making a promise to play.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

All correct! I feel very happy!