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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

Comments

Hi Cephei,

When we talk about the future we often have several forms which we can use to describe a given situation, and which we choose depends on how we see it and what we want to emphasise. For example, both of the following are possible:

I'll be graduating in two years

I'll have graduated in two years

 

If you use the second then you are looking back from a point when the graduation is already done. There is no information about when the actual graduation takes place - it could be in a year and a half, in a year, in a year and eleven months etc. The only information we have is that in two years it will definitely already have happened.

If you use the first form then we have more information. In this sentence you are telling us that the actual graduation will be in progress (more or less literally) at a point two years from now.

 

Which of these forms you choose in this case depends upon non-grammatical questions: your intention, what you wish to emphasise, the context in which you are speaking, the knowledge your interlocutor already has and so on.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I don't get the sentence ' I'll have graduated in two years.' Shouldn't it be I have graduated in two years'?

Hello blessnick,

'I have graduated' would describe your present situation with reference to a past action or event.

'I will have graduated' describes a future situation. We use 'will have' when an action occurs in the future before another event or time further in the future. Thus, this sentence means means that the graduation will take place in the future before two years. It could be in two years, in a year and a half, in a year - all that we know is that before two years pass it will have happened.

You can read more about this form on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, thank you for the article. It's very useful but I still have a question.
What is the difference btwn Future Perfect and Future Simple? For example, what's the difference between 'I'll do it by Friday' and 'I'll have done it by Friday'? Is it just the speaker's level of certainty that the action is to happen? i.e. is it just a prediction in the first sentence and a belief in the second one?
Thank you in advance

Hello omiro,

It's not a difference of certainty, it's more of a different perspective. The future perfect emphasises the completion, whereas 'will' does not. In most situations, there is no strong need to use the future perfect, but you can use it if you want to emphasise completion before a certain point in time.

I hope that helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
what the difference between future continuous and going to be
Don’t ring at 8 o’clock. I’ll be watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Don’t ring at 8 o’clock. I'm going to be watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
thank you.

Hello Rezaya,

In this case, there is no real difference in meaning between them. In general, 'be going to' is used to speak about a plan or intention and then the continuous infinitive ('be watching') indicates an action in progress. The future continuous has different uses, but probably the main one is to speak about a future event in progress, which is the case here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Alyson,

In most English grammars, a distinction is made between an indirect object and a prepositional complement, which is a prepositional phrase (usually starting with 'to') that acts as an indirect object. (For an example of this, see this Cambridge Dictionary page.) But if we loosely regard these prepositional complements as indirect objects (that is their function, after all), then you are correct about sentences 1, 2 and 3.

You're also right about 'me' and 'a gift' in sentence 4, but 'to my house' and 'for dinner' are prepositional phrases. Similarly, in sentence 5 you're right about 'someone', 'the truth' and 'the food', but 'that they have cooked' is a relative clause. Finally, in 6 you're right about the first two, but 'your family' is part of the prepositional phrase 'in your family'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Alyson,

The second pair of sentences are the correct one. When we use 'wish' to talk about our desire for something or someone to act differently, we use 'would'. In 1, it's the taxi that we wish would behave differently and in 2 it's 'you'. We can also use this structure to refer to the weather ('I wish it would stop raining'), which can seem a bit strange as we are ascribing volition to a natural force, but that's the way we use this structure!

You can read a bit more about the different forms that come after 'wish' on the Cambridge Dictionary's 'wish' page if you'd like an overview of the different possibilities.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Alyson,

Both sentences are correct, though they mean different things. If it's Monday at 18:45 when you say this, 1 means that your friend's driving test and your drink together will be finished before 18:45 on Tuesday. 2 means that the driving test is finished, but not the drink. It's not clear exactly when the drink will be, but it sounds as if it might be at 18:45 or soon after.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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