Future continuous and future perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like I'll be studying or I'll have finished?

Look at these examples to see how the future continuous and future perfect are used.

In three years' time, I'll be studying medicine.
In five years' time, I'll have finished studying medicine.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Future continuous and future perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Future continuous

We can use the future continuous (will/won't be + -ing form) to talk about future actions that: 

  • will be in progress at a specific time in the future:

When you come out of school tomorrow, I'll be boarding a plane.
Try to call before 8 o'clock. After that, we'll be watching the match.
You can visit us during the first week of July. I won't be working then.

  • we see as new, different or temporary:

Today we're taking the bus but next week we'll be taking the train.
He'll be staying with his parents for several months while his father is in recovery.
Will you be starting work earlier with your new job?

Future perfect

We use the future perfect simple (will/won't have + past participle) to talk about something that will be completed before a specific time in the future.

The guests are coming at 8 p.m. I'll have finished cooking by then.
On 9 October we'll have been married for 50 years.
Will you have gone to bed when I get back?

We can use phrases like by or by the time (meaning 'at some point before') and in or in a day's time / in two months' time / in five years' time etc. (meaning 'at the end of this period') to give the time period in which the action will be completed.

I won't have written all the reports by next week.
By the time we arrive, the kids will have gone to bed.
I'll have finished in an hour and then we can watch a film.
In three years' time, I'll have graduated from university.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Future continuous and future perfect: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2

Hello AsahiYo20,

The future continuous is used here to express the speaker's expectation. It is a prediction about the future based upon what the speaker knows, similar to going to.

While going to would express a future based upon present evidence, the future continuous expresses an expectation based upon the speaker's knowledge and experience.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher, Thank you for your detailed reply! I would like to ask a number of follow-up questions 1. According to a grammar book I have read, "will" is used for predictions that are talking about how our opinions/experience, while "be going to" is more about predictions on the basis of present evidence. Could I simply say the distinction is one between subjective evidence (for "will") and objective evidence (for "be going to")? 2. You said the future continuous expresses an expectation based upon the speaker's knowledge and experience. Does that mean the future continuous tense has the meaning as the simple future tense when it comes to prediction, and that I could use the latter in the sentence I have quoted? 3. I have a feeling that in the case of prediction, the degree of conviction conveyed by the simple future tense is higher than the future continuous tense. Is it a correct distinction?

Hi again AshahiYo20,

It's important to remember that the use of future forms in English is very nuanced and often dependent on the speaker's perspective rather than objective facts in the world. Attempts to tie usage down to very specific situations or elements of meaning tend to fall afoul of this. However, it is useful to identify certain tendencies.

 

1. I think this is accurate to a degree, though I'm not sure the distinction between subjective and objective evidence is necessarily one which is clear and unambiguous.

2. Yes, you could use will + verb here. It would indicate a greater degree of certainty, in my opinion.

3. Yes, I think this is true.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par saher le mer 29/07/2020 - 00:54

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Hi Can you please explain this sentence from content. On 9 October we'll have been married for 50 years. Isn't this sentence is future perfect passive voice ? We can't say it is future perfect tense , it should be labelled as future perfect passive. isn't it so?

Soumis par Jonathan R le mer 29/07/2020 - 02:49

En réponse à par saher

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Hi saher, Actually, it is the future perfect (of the verb 'be'), but it's not the passive voice. In this sentence, 'married' would usually be classified as an adjective – not a passive verb. These two forms look the same, but here's the difference: - 'be' + 'married' (adjective) means the state of being married (rather than not married). - 'be' + 'married' ('marry' in the passive voice) means receiving the act of marriage (in an official ceremony, for example). This second meaning doesn't fit the example sentence, because of 'for 50 years'. The length of time refers to the state of being married rather than the act of being married. Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par cms10 le mar 28/07/2020 - 12:04

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Hello, Could you please explain the use of the future continuous tense in the following two sentences? In particular, whether I could use simple future tense instead? 1. Could you ascertain whether she will be coming to the meeting? 2. We will be forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. Thanks!

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 29/07/2020 - 07:55

En réponse à par cms10

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Hello cms10,

You could use [will verb] in each of those sentences.

 

The form [will be verb-ing] has several uses. It is often used to describe an arrangement which has not yet been made but is sure. It can help to compare it to the present continuous:

We are forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. [the procedure to do this has already started]

We will be forwarding our new catalogue to you next week. [the procedure to do this has not started but is sure to]

The difference between [will verb] and [will be verb-ing] is often one of nuance and emphasis rather than objective fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply. I have two additional questions: 1. You said the difference between [will] [will be -ing] is often one of nuance and emphasis. Am I correct to say that [will be -ing] makes a sentence less definite (or in other words, tentative) compared with [will]? 2. I read from a grammar book that the present continuous tense can be used to describe an event in the future which has already been arranged by the time of speaking. Am I correct to say that the difference between the present continuous tense and future continuous tense lies in whether arrangements regarding the future event has been made? Thanks.

Hello cms10,

1. Yes, I think that's generally correct, though of course the context of any particular utterance is important. Will tends to imply a high degree of conviction, whether that is in the form of a personal conviction (a belief) or a personal obligation (a promise).

2. In many cases, yes. However, I would advise against tying the distinction between the two forms too closely to real-world criteria. It's really often a choice based on how the speaker sees or feels about the situation rather than a question of objective fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Asni le dim 26/07/2020 - 22:42

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Hello, Could you please explain further the use of the future continuous? I don't understand its use in the following examples. And if I just use the simple tense,would it be correct? -..Ali will be singing... -He'll be staying with his parents for several months.... -Will you be starting work earlier with your new job? I read some comments and I can understand that when a decision is made it is the simple tense and when it a prediction, guess... it is the continuous tense.. In the example 'I'm afraid I won't be coming tonight' I suppose that the speaker is not sure and hasn't made a decision yet. But in the above examples I can't really see why?

Soumis par brian1010 le jeu 16/07/2020 - 14:59

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Hi teachers, I would like to ask why the following three sentences use the future continuous tense instead of the simple future tense: 1. Some flyers, particularly business travellers, will be reassessing how much flying they need to do in future. 2. The company will not be changing its policies that allow lying in paid political advertisements. 3. We will be asking her to investigate whether there have been supervisory failures and if so to set out a possible course of action Thanks.

Hi brian1010,

When we talk about something that is organised for the future we often us the present continuous:

She's leaving at 6.00 on Friday.

This is something that is certain in my mind. It's already arranged and set.

Will is used when we want to speculate or make a guess or prediction. Thus, if I'm not sure about when the person is leaving I can say this:

She'll be leaving at 6.00 on Friday.

Your examples work in a similar way. The speaker (writer) is speculating about the response of various people to a given situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher, Thank you for your reply. If the future continuous tense in those sentences is changed to the simple future tense, would it be grammatically incorrect, and would there be any change in meaning? Thank you.

Hello again brian1010,

You can use the simple form in each example. I would say that the continuous form suggests an expectation which, to my ear, has a lower degree of certainty than the simple form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Dastenova Firuza le dim 12/07/2020 - 16:31

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I repeated the rules and tenewed my knowledge. Thank you.

Soumis par Teresa R. le mar 23/06/2020 - 17:23

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Hello. I still have troubles understanding the difference between future continuous and future simple. Whenever I come across the future continuous in books and movies I ask myself: “Would it be correct if I used the future simple instead?” For example, in this excerpt from “Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban” the author used this tense: MINISTRY OF MAGIC EMPLOYEE SCOOPS GRAND PRIZE Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, has won the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw. A delighted Mr. Weasley told the Daily Prophet, “We will be spending the gold on a summer holiday in Egypt, where our eldest son, Bill, works as a curse breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank.” I don’t understand why is “we will be spending” and not “we will spend”. Would it mean a different thing if it was future simple? Also in this book Hermione talks about how little she likes Divination, because this subject is not based on facts and the teacher is a little bit too dramatic, and she uses the future continuous: If being good at Divination means I have to pretend to see death omens in a lump of tea leaves, I’m not sure I’ll be studying it much longer! That lesson was absolute rubbish compared with my Arithmancy class!” Why does she use “I’ll be studying?” I thought the future simple must be used for strong intentions. Can you help me understand this difference?

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 24/06/2020 - 06:42

En réponse à par Teresa R.

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Hello Sarah Word,

Very often both will and will be verb-ing are possible in the same sentence. The choice depends on how the speaker sees the action.

 

Will implies a decision which is made at or around the time of speaking, or else a guess, prediction or belief about the future.

We will spend the gold on a summer holiday in Egypt, where our eldest son, Bill, works as a curse breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank.”

If Mr. Weasley said this, then we would understand that this was a decision he was making as or just before he spoke.

Similarly, in the second example, Hermione would be talking about her choice or decision.

 

Will be verb-ing is a little different. We often use it to describe something we see as a natural or expected result of a particular situation. It tells us something is expected and unsurprising, or an obvious conclusion.

When Mr. Weasley says we'll be spending it on..., we understand that for him this is an obvious and natural choice.

Similarly, when Hermione says I don't think I'll be studying it much longer, she is implying that this is the obvious result of her poor experience in Divination classes to date.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par cittàutopica le ven 12/06/2020 - 17:25

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Can you explain because in sentence "7. Let's call Rory. He'll .... arrived by now", the right answer is "have" but no "has"? Thanks.

Hello cittàutopica,

The reason have is needed is because we have the auxiliary will. To make a perfect modal verb we use havewill have, should have, could have, might hate etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lovely_indeed le jeu 14/05/2020 - 02:36

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Hi! I have a question about Q5 from Test 2. The right answer is: 5. I'm afraid I [won't] be coming tonight. I have a meeting until late. However, I don't see why it must be future continuous. Is it grammatically wrong to say: "I'm afraid I'm not coming tonight."? Would anyone tell me what is the difference between "I won't be coming" and "I'm not coming"?

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 14/05/2020 - 07:04

En réponse à par Lovely_indeed

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Hello Lovely_Indeed

You're right -- 'I'm not coming' is also a possible correct form here, though of course it doesn't fit in the gap. In fact, in some of the other sentences other forms are also possible, but the gaps limit the answers you can write.

It's a difficult to explain the difference between 'I won't be coming' and 'I'm not coming' without knowing the precise context, but in general it's a matter of how the speaker views the time she is talking about. 'I'm not coming' is a simple statement of a plan, but 'I won't be coming' can imply, for example, that the speaker is thinking of how she's going to be sitting in a meeting at the time she had planned to go to a party. In other words, she's thinking of actions in progress at a specific time later that evening. 

So both sentences communicate the basic idea that she's not going, but using the future continuous form can communicate subtle ideas as well.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le dim 10/05/2020 - 17:22

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Hello. Which form is correct in the following sentence, please? Why - By 2025, solar heating (will be used - will have been used ) in home and industry. Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think will be used is the most likely option here. Will have been used would suggest that its use had ended, unless you add a duration: will have been used for over twenty years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NinaZ le lun 04/05/2020 - 12:04

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Hello, I would like to know if this sentence contains a will progressive (future continuous), if so could you explain why the form in question is used. Thank you. Police will be watching you when N.J. parks, golf courses reopen Saturday

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 05/05/2020 - 07:09

En réponse à par NinaZ

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Hello NinaZ,

Will be watching describes an action in progress rather than a single complete action – presumably, the police will be watching while people play their games to ensure that they follow the rules.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NinaZ le lun 04/05/2020 - 11:50

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Hello, I would like to know if this sentence contains a will perfect (future perfect), if so could you explain why the form in question is used. Thank you. His amateurish dud of a bomb will have worked after all.

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 05/05/2020 - 07:05

En réponse à par NinaZ

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Hello NinaZ,

It's hard to say for sure without knowing the context, but I would expect that the speaker is making a prediction about something in the future that will tell them that the bomb has exploded.

For example, the speaker might say something like this:

If we see a big cloud of smoke then his amateurish dud of a bomb will have...

The speaker is looking back from a point in the future (seeing the cloud of smoke) and supposing what happened before that (the bomb going off).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par itspb008 le ven 10/04/2020 - 16:53

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Can you explain future continuous's 2nd point in more detail?

Hello itspb008,

Continuous forms often suggest an action has a temporary nature. For example:

I live in Edinburgh - this describes my home

I'm living in Edinburgh - this tells you my current situation and suggests it is not permanent

 

Continuous forms with modal verbs can have a similar meaning:

I'll live in Edinburgh.

I'll be living in Edinburgh

 

You can read more about the continuous aspect on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/continuous-aspect

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le sam 04/04/2020 - 21:21

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Hello. Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct using the future perfect? Why? - By the year 2030, the internet will have been used by everyone. Thank you.
Hello again. So, what is the difference in meaning between the following two forms? - By the year 2030, the internet will have been used by everyone. - By the year 2030, the internet will be used by everyone. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The first sentence (will have been used) tells us that everyone will have used the Internet at least once before 2030, but not necessarily that they continue to use it.

The second sentence (will be used) tells us that everyone will be using it not just once but as part of their normal lives at some point before 2030.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par cinzia rosati le lun 30/03/2020 - 16:58

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Hello, I would like to know if it is possible to speak about an action that I will have done at a specific moment in the future, which I'm not sure about, by using the modal verbs may and might. I mean if I want to say that "in ten years time I may have made a fortune" is this sentence correct and understandable?

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le sam 22/02/2020 - 17:37

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Hello. Could you please help me? What is the difference between the following sentences? - This time tomorrow, my mother will have had an operation. - This time tomorrow, my mother will have an operation. - This time tomorrow, my mother will be having an operation. Thank you so much.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

This time tomorrow, my mother will have had an operation.

In this sentence, the operation will be completed at the time specified.

 

This time tomorrow, my mother will have an operation.

In this sentence, the operation will take place (probably begin) at the time specified.

 

This time tomorrow, my mother will be having an operation.

In this sentence, the operation will be in progress (beginning before and not having finished) at the time specified.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par grammarly le jeu 30/01/2020 - 11:03

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what about the use of there is/are in future continuous? is it grammatically correct? there + will be + noun/subject + gerund there will be guests coming tomorrow. there will be latecomers trying to get in for free. does the intersertion of a noun/subject in the middle of the "will be + gerund"?

Hello grammarly,

The sentences are both grammatically correct.

This is not actually a future continuous form, but rather a present participle (the -ing form) with an adjectival role (describing the noun). It is not a gerund, which would function as a noun.

 

You can make similar sentences with other forms of 'be':

There are latecomers trying to get in for free.

There were latecomers trying to get in for free.

You can also use other verbs:

Paul saw latecomers trying to get in for free.

John will check for latecomers trying to get in for free.

I don't want latecomers trying to get in for free.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Shoaib50 le mar 14/01/2020 - 16:28

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Hi team , I need your comment on below two statements. The film will have finished by mid night. The film will have been watching for 3 hours by midnight.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 15/01/2020 - 07:15

En réponse à par Shoaib50

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Hi Shoaib50,

The second sentence is not grammatically correct: people watch films; films do not watch anything.

The first sentence is fine, though 'midnight' is one word, not two.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le ven 20/09/2019 - 07:05

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Hello. Is the following sentence correct using the future perfect? "The moment the train has reached the station, my secretary will have been there to welcome you. " Thank you.

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le ven 11/10/2019 - 06:57

En réponse à par Ahmed Imam

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Hello again. Could please help me? Is the following sentence correct using the future perfect or we must use the future simple? I think that future perfect is not correct. "The moment the train has reached the station, my secretary "will have been"/"will be" there to welcome you. " Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

Yes, you are right -- the future perfect doesn't work in that situation and the future simple would be the most natural option.

Sorry we somehow missed your earlier comment.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rose Duda le jeu 19/09/2019 - 14:09

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Hello! This sentence seems right when I hear it said. "When I pay him tomorrow, he will have received everything I owe him" However I am confused with the following. (1) I believe the rule for usage of the future perfect verb is that it needs to be used to indicate an action that happened before the action indicated by the simple future verb (2) The act of receiving can happen only after the act of paying I am confused with these two contradicting thoughts. Appreciate your clarification.

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 20/09/2019 - 05:40

En réponse à par Rose Duda

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Hello Rose,

I see what you mean, and you are right about the sentence possibly being inconsistent in that way. A more accurate way to express it would be:

Once he's paid tomorrow, he'll have received everything I owe him.

In your original sentence 'when' is being used with the sense of 'after', which may be confusing. People do not always express themselves logically, and it's not unusual for people to say things that are open to misinterpretation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ahmed Imam le mar 10/09/2019 - 20:04

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Hello. Is the future continuous correct in the following sentence: - Every thing is arranged. We will be visiting our aunt next week. Or the following one: - Every thing is arranged. We will be visiting our aunt next week. Thank you.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 11/09/2019 - 06:18

En réponse à par Ahmed Imam

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Hello Ahmed Imam,

The future continuous is fine there. I think you may have mistyped the sentences, however, as they are identical.

You should write 'everything' as one word here, not two.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry for mistyping. Is there a difference in meaning or usage between the two forms? - Every thing is arranged. We will be visiting our aunt next week. - Every thing is arranged. We are visiting our aunt next week. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

First of all, we write 'everything' as one word rather than two.

There is a difference in how we use between 'will' and the present continuous to describe future events.

The present continuous is used for events which are planned and arranged. Thus, you would use are visiting if the visit is already organised with other people in some way, such as talking to your aunt, planning it with your family, taking time off work or buying tickets for the journey.

'Will' implies certainty about the event. This could be simply an expression of determination, or a strong desire.

In the end, the choice depends on the speaker's perspective. Both forms are possible; it depends upon how the speaker sees the event.

You can read more about this on our page about future plans.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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