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.

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Soumis par Prap le mar 18/05/2021 - 15:22

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What does the speaker mean when they say 'Peter kissing the cameraman is the best scene you will ever see'? I confuse it with expressions like 'Peter kissing the cameraman is the best scene you have ever seen'. Thanks in advance!

Hi Prap,

Both of these expressions emphasise how uniquely good this scene is. The first one refers to the future, meaning something like 'in your life, you won't see anything better than this'. This is a belief about the future (see more examples of this on the page above). The second one refers to the past until the present moment. It means that until now, you have never seen a better scene than this. It's more common to use this with the first person (the best scene I've ever seen), because I know my own experiences but I may not know what experiences another person has had.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par ngaianna le lun 22/03/2021 - 02:50

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From the above notes, it states that we normally use the present tense for something scheduled, e.g. 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. If I use future tense, e.g. My parents' anniversary will be on next Friday. Next Friday will be my birthday. Tomorrow will be Friday. I will visit Ocean Park. Are these OK?

Hello ngaianna,

You can generally use 'will' in this way. It describes each thing as a single event rather than a repeated, regular or scheduled event, but it's not wrong to do that. The exception, I think, is when we talk about very fixed patterns such as days of the week. It's not grammatically wrong to say 'Tomorrow will be Friday' but it sounds very unusual to my ear.

As an aside, we don't use prepositions with 'last' or 'next', so we wouldn't say 'on next Friday' but rather just 'next Friday'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Yigido le dim 27/12/2020 - 11:07

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Hi team, I am confused for example''If I work hard,I"ll be able to pass my exam."I don't understand the main difference - will - and -will be able to-.I am not sure Can you tell me what's the difference?

Soumis par Jonathan R le lun 28/12/2020 - 06:39

En réponse à par Yigido

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Hi Yigido,

They are similar! But there is a difference. If you say I'll pass my exam, you are focusing on the exam result only. But if you say I'll be able to pass my exam, you're stating that you have the ability (e.g. the knowledge or the skills) to pass the exam. So, the focus is on your personal ability, as well as the exam result.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Yigido le lun 28/12/2020 - 08:36

En réponse à par Jonathan R

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Teacher,Why I am saying I am stating my ability?or When I should state my ability?

Hi Yigido,

The word able means 'to have the ability to do something', so if you say I'll be able to pass my exam, it includes this meaning.

About your second question, it really depends on what you want to say as a speaker or writer! If you want to just focus on the exam result, then say I'll pass my exam. You could say this if, for example, this is part of a conversation where you tell somebody all about the exam (e.g. how difficult it will be, what the questions might be, and so on).

But, in other situations, I would say I'll be able to pass my exam. For example, if I am reflecting on my progress in my studies, then I need to consider not only my exam results but also the development of my abilities (e.g. knowledge or skills). So, this sentence fits well here.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Plokonyo le sam 27/02/2021 - 19:53

En réponse à par Jonathan R

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Dear Jonathan. In you sentence you said: "if you say..., you are focusing on... What is the difference if saying " if you said..., you would focuse on..."?

Hi Plokonyo,

If you say ... frames this as a real situation. I'm referring to the person really saying this in his/her real life. If you said ... frames it as just an imagined (i.e. hypothetical) situation that doesn't necessarily happen in his/her real life. Both phrases and meanings could be used here, but using If you said ... suggests that the situation is unlikely to happen.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Turki123456 le mer 28/10/2020 - 12:47

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-I’m cleaning the house before my mom comes tomorrow -I will be cleaning the house before my mom comes tomorrow -I'm going to clean the house before my mom comes tomorrow -I will clean the house before my comes tomorrow Can we use the present progressive or the future continues in the main clause or it’s wrong? As if it’s a prior plan or something in progress? I know that we usually Don't use them with predictions but here can They be a prior plane? or only (will and going to) can fit in the main clauses as if they are always used as predictions.(the main clauses I mean)

Hello Turki123456,

All of those sentences are fine. We don't use these forms after time markers such as 'before', but they are fine in the main clause.

You can read more about these constructions on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/verbs-in-time-clauses-and-if-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par DaniWeebKage le dim 25/10/2020 - 15:40

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I'm going to London with my friends the next day. I'll be going to London with my friends the next day. Do they have the same meaning? Can I use one with my option?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The meanings are very similar and the forms are often interchangeable, depending on the context and the speaker's intention.

 

Going to have several uses. It can be used to express an intention or a plan on the part of the speaker, describing something we have chosen to do. It can also describe the anticipated result of a present situation: I can see dark clouds, so it's going to rain.

 

Will be + verb-ing also has more than one use, but the relevant use here is to express an expectation. We use it to describe something that seems to the speaker to be part of the expected or normal sequence of events. A prediction of the weather based on what is typical would use this form, for example: In November it will be snowing in the mountains.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sokhom le dim 18/10/2020 - 12:21

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Hello,Sir What should I choose: It's against the ........... not to wear seat belt in a plane. a. rule b. regulation c. law d. order Thanks you.

Hello Sokhom,

I'd recommend you ask your teacher about that. I'm afraid that this sentence is a little unnatural-sounding, so I can't be sure what will be considered correct. In standard British English, we typically say 'against the law', 'against the rules' or 'against regulations'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le ven 25/09/2020 - 11:56

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Hello. Which form is suitable in the following situation? - I will meet Donna after school. - I am meeting Donna after school. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't understand the situation you are referring to. If you decide right now that you will meet Donna after school, the first one is correct. If you already had a plan to meet Donna after school, i.e. a plan that you previously made, then the second one would be the correct form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sindhallb le ven 11/09/2020 - 15:26

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How can we decide that would is used to show past or for asking foreference (like/dislike)

Hello sindhallb,

When a word has different possible meanings it is the context in which it is used (the sentence and the conversation/text around it) which makes the meaning or use clear.

If you're interested in the various uses of would then you can find them discussed on our various pages on modal verbs. Some pages deal specfically with particular modal verbs, such as would, while others deal with the uses of various modal verbs, such as ability, permission etc.

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/modal-verbs

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sindhallb le sam 05/09/2020 - 19:48

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It's somewhat confusing to use future tene with difference format of verbs for the varius purposes

Soumis par Aiza le mar 18/08/2020 - 19:09

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Hello, I have a question,as one of use of"will" is for formal announcement of a schedule d future event(to tell someone that something is happening and when and where it will happen) E.g. X band will be performing ng at this place. Or we wipp go to the beach next weekend. Or dad will be home at 6. In above example, something that is planned to happen,has a place or date/time then"present continuous " is also used form arragennts which as specific time and date.e.g.they are coming at 6. So, what's the difference between these two?

Soumis par vnpthao le ven 07/08/2020 - 04:26

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Hello, I would like to ask you about this sentence "The container to be set at minus 18 degrees Celsius". Does it just talk about an action may happen in the future? If not, does that sentence equal to "The container is set at minus 18 degrees Celsius"? I do not see your example of structure "to + verb" meaning the future. So does this structure still talk about simple present, or TO BE SET is just a wrong tense of IS SET?

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 07/08/2020 - 08:55

En réponse à par vnpthao

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Hello vnpthao,

The form here has a future meaning. It is an instruction with a similar meaning to 'you must do this' or 'this is what you should do'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Abhishek le ven 31/07/2020 - 08:05

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Rule 2 and 6 are contradictory in nature ? 2. They are coming to see us tomorrow (plan) 6. They'll be coming to see us next week. (Plan) Both are correct or not ?

Hello Abhishek,

No, they are not contradictory. Remember that grammatical rules describe how words work, and grammar is not simply a tight system without any redundancy. It would be very weak if that were the case.

Both verb forms can refer to plans. The difference is in the perspective of the speaker on the plan or the future time. There has been some discussion of this recently on our Future continuous and future perfect page -- please have a look at the first couple of pages of comments there and I think Peter's answers there will help you make more sense of this.

If not, please feel free to ask us more there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Allate le mer 29/07/2020 - 16:19

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Hi Sir, I'd like to know if there is a difference in these two sentences: 1. I'll come when I finish. 2. I'll come if I finish. If yes, what is the difference in meaning?

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 30/07/2020 - 07:47

En réponse à par Allate

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Hello Allate,

When suggests that finishing is certain; it is only a question of time.

If suggests that the speaker does not know whether or not they will finish; it is possible that they will not finish.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Kim Hui-jeong le lun 06/07/2020 - 00:52

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------------------------ I find this illustration of the link above is not accurate and might not include all the cases in which we should use the present tense in the way. I wanted to know all the cases and the accurate rules of this usage of the present tense, sir. (Sorry for making a vague question before, sir. T.T)

Hello Kim Hui-Jeong,

I don't see any errors in the section that you referred to. Some people might prefer to call the past simple forms in the second conditional sentences a subjunctive form, but the example sentence is certainly correct. If there was a specific sentence that you think is wrong, you're welcome to copy that sentence here and then tell us what you think is wrong or don't understand. I'd also recommend you read our page that explains this grammar, but I'm afraid we don't provide exhaustive explanations of grammar points -- there are just too many possibilities.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par veve le ven 03/07/2020 - 20:19

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Hello, please can you tell me which form is correct? She will be 30 next month. She is going to be 30 next month. or are they both correct?

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 04/07/2020 - 06:52

En réponse à par veve

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Hello veve,

Both options are correct. When we talk about people's ages in this way we can use a very wide range of forms. For example, as well as the two you included you could also use these:

She's 30 next month.

She turns 30 next month.

She'll be turning 30 next month.

She's turning 30 next month.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Kim Hui-jeong le ven 03/07/2020 - 13:17

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I'm curious about exactly when to use the present tense that refers to the future in dependant clauses. I already know that the present tense must be used in some cases of time/place/condition clauses and relative clauses. But I'm not sure if I must use the present tense in some cases of situation/case clauses(or other clauses) and appositive clauses. I would be really grateful if you helped me. I've been very confused ever since I first encountered the present tense used like this.

Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

I think this question will be best answered on the basis of concrete examples rather than general statements. Are there any sentences you have come across which you would like to ask about? If you have two or three examples then we'll be happy to comment on them and use them to highlight any relevant rules or tendencies.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Kim Hui-jeong le jeu 02/07/2020 - 07:49

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Could you tell me whether these sentences below are grammatically correct in the tenses of the subordinate clauses? I'm curious about exactly when to use the present tense that refers to the future in dependant clauses. I already know that the present tense must be used in some cases of time/place/condition clauses and relative clauses. But I'm not sure if I must use the present tense in some cases of situation/case clauses(or other clauses) and appositive clauses. I would be really grateful if you helped me. I've been very confused ever since I first encountered the present tense used like this. "We have gotten an opportunity that we borrow the gym." "He will be in a situation that he is surrounded by a gang." (I think I've seen sentences like these. But I'm not sure exactly when to use the tense.)

Soumis par Amit shukla le mer 20/05/2020 - 11:34

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Hello Sir, Sir, what is the difference between these sentences. 1. We plan to go to France for our holidays. 2. We have planned to go to France for our holidays. Thanks

Hello Amit shukla,

The first sentence is fine. It talks about what the speaker intends to do in the future.

The second sentence does not seem very natural to me. If the plan is still current then you would use a present simple form like in the first sentence. If the plan is not currect then you would use a past simple form: We planned to go to France for our holidays... but then our plans changed

 

You could use have planned in a different context:

We have planned the first part of the journey, now we need to plan the second part.

Here, plan is used not to mean 'intend' as in your example but rather to mean 'prepare'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NinaZ le sam 09/05/2020 - 10:11

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Hello, I would like to know if there is a sentence, with a decision that involves planning, in going to future in this paragraph (specifically 'I am going to wait for the CDC advisory to be lowered'). If so could you provied me with an explanation as to why. *As antsy as I am to get back on the road, I’m waiting until these advisories have been lifted before I consider non-essential travel again. For domestic air travel, I’m going to wait for the CDC advisory to be lowered. For international travel, I’ll be waiting for both the U.S. State Department and the destination country’s health department to lower advisories.* Thank you. Nina Z.

Soumis par Kirk le sam 09/05/2020 - 14:11

En réponse à par NinaZ

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Hello Nina Z.

The sentence you ask about (with 'going to wait') sounds like a plan to me. I don't know what exactly the person is thinking, but it sounds as if they want or need to travel, and plan to wait until the restrictions are lifted before doing it.

Does that help?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the different between in two sentance 1.i am going to America tomorrow 2.i am going to go America tomorrow

Hello Daniel smith141,

Your first sentence uses the present continuous form (be going to). This tells us that the action is something that has been arrranged in advance. For example, the speaker may have made reservations, bought tickets and so on.

Your second sentence uses the going to future form (be going to + verb, which describes plans or intentions. It tells us that the speaker has thought about the trip before and is not making a decision at the time of speaking. It does not tell us whether the speaker has arranged anything about the trip but only that the decision was made some time earlier. Note that there is a mistake in this sentence: you need to say ...go to America... and not just ...go America...

 

The sentences are a little confusing because the main verb is go. which is the same verb used in the going to form. If you change the main verb then the difference is easier to see:

I am travelling to American tomorrow. [present continuous]

 

I am going to travel to America tomorrow. [going to]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Milca_Joy le sam 25/04/2020 - 05:06

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I've tried to correct the grammar in this statement of my friend, I would like to ask some help if I made it right. [friend's statement] I'll do some job first Then if I had saved enough money, I will go to school. [my correction] I am gonna do some job first Then if I save enough money, I am going to school.

Hello Milca_Joy,

I think take would be better than do in this context. You could say do some jobs, but that does not necessarily mean getting paid for them.

In the first sentence both will and going to are possible. It depends upon whether this is a plan or a decision made at the time of speaking. If the person has thought about this before then going to is better.

In the second sentence had saved is not correct; save is fine. You could also change if to when if the speaker is sure that they will have enough money at some point.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sidra_ le ven 24/04/2020 - 08:47

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Hello! Can we say like this, 'This work will be done by night'. If so, then why we didn't use "do" in a sentence because I'm talking about simple future tense and so the verb do will be used.

Soumis par Kirk le sam 25/04/2020 - 07:28

En réponse à par Sidra_

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Hello Sidra_

'will be done' is not just in the simple future, it is also a passive verb. Please follow the link and I think the explanation there will clear it up for you. Please don't hesitate to ask if not.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par YSATO201602 le dim 19/04/2020 - 10:08

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Hello teachers We often use present simple tense to mean future events which are very unlikely to change such as: - Our plane departs at 6:45. (instead of "will depart") - Don't be late! The meeting starts at 13:00. (instead of "will start") My students asked me whether it is also right to say: - My father is retirement age next year. - I am seventeen years old next month. They thought these are also unchangeable future events. In my feeling, of course, it should be more suitable to use "will be" in both cases instead of "is/am" and I usually hear such phrases in a conversation. But I just want to ask native speakers whether these two sentences are really unnatural, and if so, why they sounds unfeasible. Thanks in advance

Hello Ysato201602

As I understand it, the present simple is used to speak about scheduled events, i.e. events that you could find on a timetable that is available to the public. Although I can see how, in a sense, birthdays are on a timetable, it is not correct to use the present simple in either of the sentences your students asked about.

I'm impressed, however, that your students had such a question -- it shows they are really thinking about the grammar!

Best wishes to you and your students

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par aaaaa le sam 11/04/2020 - 14:10

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hello sir how can i write a task about " What will your life be like when you’re 70?"