Do you know when to use the future continuous (e.g. I'll be studying) and future perfect (e.g. I'll have studied)?

The future continuous (will be + ‘ing’ form) and the future perfect (will have + past participle) tenses are used to talk about events in the future.

Future continuous

  • Don’t ring at 8 o’clock. I’ll be watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
  • This time tomorrow we’ll be sitting on the beach. I can’t wait!

We use the future continuous to talk about something that will be in progress at or around a time in the future.

  • Don’t phone grandma now, she’ll be having dinner.
  • The kids are very quiet. They’ll be doing something wrong, I know it!

These sentences are not about the future but we can use the future continuous to talk about what we assume is happening at the moment.

Future Perfect

  • Do you think you will have finished it by next Thursday?
  • In 5 years time I’ll have finished university and I’ll be able to earn some money at last.

We use the future perfect to say that something will be finished by a particular time in the future.

We often use the future perfect with ‘by’ or ‘in

  • I think astronauts will have landed on Mars by the year 2020.
  • I’ll have finished in an hour and then you can use the computer.

By’ means ‘not later than a particular time’ and ‘in’ means 'within a period of time’. We don’t know exactly when something will finish.

  • I promise I’ll have done all the work by next Saturday.

We don’t know exactly when he will finish the work – maybe Thursday, maybe Friday – but definitely before Saturday. 

Exercise

Nivel de idioma

Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Hello
Would you ever use 'would' in a future perfect construction? Is there a rule, e.g. By the time I am 30 years old I will have owned a Ferrari. Or would it be: By the time I am 30 years old I would have owned a Ferrari.
Thanks!

Hello Jennief
'would have owned' doesn't work with 'by the time I am' because 'would have owned' refers to an (unreal) imaginary time and 'by the time I am' refers to a (real) future time. You could say, for example, 'I would have owned a Ferrari when I was 30 is I hadn't been sacked.' This refers to an unreal past time, i.e. a past in which you were not sacked.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
Is the future perfect correct in this sentence or we must use "will own"?
By the time I am 30 years old I will have owned a Ferrari.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,
Both forms are grammatically possible, but there is a difference in meaning.
If you say 'will own' then it means that when you are 30 the car will be yours. You might buy it when you are 29, 25 or 20, but at the age of 30 you will have it.
If you say 'will have owned' then you mean that some time before 30 you will have the car, but may not have it at 30. In other words, 'will have...' does not tell us if you have the car still at 30, but rather that at some point before that you did.
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

No grammar book (and I've got about a dozen of them) explains the difference between Future Simple and Progressive in similar sentences and why they can be used interchangeably. That's why I decided to ask my questions here, and now I seem to understand that, thanks to you.

Hello,
My question concerns one of the uses of Future Progressive.
Consider this example:
- This time tomorrow I'll be lying on the beach and sunbathing.
If I'm not mistaken, we can't use Future Simple here ("I'll lie") because we're dealing with a very short action, which is quite limited in time, and which will be in progress at a particular moment in the future.
The same happens in the present:
- At the moment I'm lying on the beach and having a tan. (it's not correct to say "I lie", that's perfectly clear).
Nevertheless, I've come across a lot of examples in which Future Progressive is used to express long, permanent actions, not limited in time. If these examples referred to the present, then the most appropriate tense would be Simple Present, and not Present Progressive.
Example:
- In 50 years' time people won't be using petrol to drive their cars. Instead, most of them will be using electricity for that purpose.
The "present equivalent" for that would be:
- Nowadays, people use petrol to drive their cars.
If I'm not mistaken, it's not common to say "Nowadays people are using petrol to drive their cars", because it's a general, permanent action, not limited in time. And it's not a changing situation or trend, which would require the usage of Present Progressive.
Other similar examples (all taken from English coursebooks):
- Within 50 years people will be living longer lives.
- In 10 years’ time I expect I’ll be owning a flat.
If we "transfer" them to the present, we'll get:
- Nowadays people live to about 75-80.
- My family owns a flat and a small cottage in the countryside.
So the Progressive changes to the Present.

I've also come across lots of similar sentences where Future Simple is used instead of Future Progressive:
- In 50 years' time most rich people will live until they are over 100. (instead of "will be living")
- The development of intelligent cars means that, by 2030, they will drive themselves. (instead of "will be driving")
These are only some random examples among hundreds of similar ones.
It seems to me that, when we're talking about long, permanent future actions, which are not limited in time, we can use both Future Progressive and Future Simple interchangeably, while in the present the preference is given to Simple Present, not Present Progressive.
- In 50 years' time people won't be using/won't use petrol to drive their cars. Instead, most of them will be using/will use electricity for that purpose.
- Nowadays people use petrol to drive their cars and almost nobody uses electricity yet.

I would be very grateful to you if you could comment on what I've said above. Am I right in my conclusions?
Thank you very much!

Hello EvgenyAndreev
The future progressive, also referred to as the future continuous, is one of several verb forms that have continuous aspect, which can be used to express a variety of meanings (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/continuous-aspect).
The continuous form in the sentence about lying on the beach at this time tomorrow suggests that you'll already have been there before this time tomorrow and that you will likely continue to be there after this time as well. If people are imagining a specific situation they expect to be in in the future, they often use a future continuous form. Your example is a good one in this case. In contrast, if a friend of yours asks you to go to the cinema with him tomorrow at this time and you looking at your diary and see that tomorrow you've got an appointment with your friends at the beach at exactly the same time, you'd be more likely to say 'I'll be at the beach'. Note also that lying on the beach is something we usually do for awhile, i.e. over time, and this is another meaning the continuous aspect can express.
The continuous aspect doesn't necessarily refer to an even that is short in duration, as you've noticed and ask about in other sentences. In the case of people living longer in the future, this is a change or development that is contrasted with the present, when they have shorter lifespans (at least according to the perspective this sentence suggests). If the future simple is used, then people's lifespan is seen more as a simple fact, rather than as something different from the present.
As you can see, the continuous aspect can be used not to refer just to time, but is also very often used to show the speaker's perspective on an event or fact.
I hope this helps you.
Best wishes
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. I understand what you mean and you seem to be right. However, in these examples (which have also been cited in my previous message) Future Progressive isn't used despite the fact that the sentences imply a change and development contrasted with the present :)
- In 50 years' time most rich people will live until they are over 100. (instead of "will be living")
- The development of intelligent cars means that, by 2030, they will drive themselves. (instead of "will be driving")

Hello again EvgenyAndreev
I can't say for sure without knowing the context and the speaker's intentions, but I suppose that in both of these sentences, the speaker is looking at these future situations as mere facts. For example, perhaps the first sentence is one of a long list of predictions about the world in 50 years; the second one could also be part of a series of descriptions of how cars will develop over the next 20 years. In either of these cases, a simple form would be more likely. Please note, however, that this doesn't exclude the use of a continuous form. There can be some overlap between them.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. I find your explanations very helpful!

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