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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

Hello JakiGeh,

Yes, the sentence here means that the speaker expects that you already know this. In other words, the speaker does not think that the information about his new glasses is news to you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter

I didn't understand the point.
The speaker does not consider the information as the news by using "as"
or "future perfect"?

Does "future perfect" always suggest already known information?

Regards

Hello Sanazi,

The use of 'will have noticed' here is key. Compare these:

 

As you will have noticed... [at some point before now]

As you will notice... [in the future when you see him]

 

'Will have' here is a prediction or a guess about the past. It means something like 'I am sure that you have already...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the sentence "Probably, when these guys *will be* older, they will have the same attitude." I know the first one should be in simple present (when these guys are older, the will have...) but, why? We've always been taught that to use the present to refer to the future, we must be talking abut something planned or scheduled, and this is not the case... Thanks for helping!

Hello claudiaes,

Although in general the present tense is used to refer to the present, in fact it can actually be used to refer to the past (e.g. in stories), the present (e.g. habits) and the future (e.g. fixed plans)! As for this specific context, which is a time clause (this one begins with the word 'when'), the present simple is used here, even though you're referring to the future. You can see a bit more about this on our time clauses page.

By the way, this is very similar to Spanish, which wouldn't allow a future tense here, but rather a present subjunctive. In Catalan and French, a future tense is possible, but I believe a present subjunctive is also possible here, or at least it is in Catalan.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear the LearnEnglish Team,

I've been reading English grammar fora and come across a post about the difference between the use of Future Progressive and that of Present Progresive. Something like 'We use Present Progressive when we talk about arrangements but we have some influence / choice. On the contrary, Future Progressive expresses something inevitable, beyond our power to change'. There are a few examples. I'm seeing my dentist tomorrow (to emphacise I've already booked an arrangement) vs I'll be seeing my dentist tomorrow (to emphacise there's nothing I can do about it, sorry) - btw I'm wondering if you want to convey by this it's impossible to change the plan and like go somewhere else instead or you've got a terrible toothache and just can't wait any longer...
I'm working with Mary tomorrow vs I'll be working with Mary tomorrow (like today is Tuesday and I always work with Mary on Tuesdays?)
I'm meeting with my friends next week vs I'll be meeting with my friends next week (a sort of tradition to meet every week, every month?)
But I also heard the sentences in Future Continuous in videos for EFL learners, e.g. We'll be doing some exercises bla. Maybe because in every video it's done, like a routine?

Have I got it right? Some speakers say all future forms are used pretty interchangeably and maybe I'm just overanalyzing that. I found a sentence 'I'm afraid you will not be coming home tonight' and I can't figure out why Future Progressive is used there.

I'd be happy if you will clarify it.

Thanks in advance,
Elena

Hello Elena,

First of all, there are a couple of other pages that describe different uses of the future continuous that I'd recommend you read. The first is a current BBC Learning English page and the second is an older BBC Learning English page.

I wouldn't say that the future continuous by itself refers to a future event that's impossible to change. Rather, as an instance of the continuous aspect, it shows a different perspective on the future event. It's as if the event is going to happen whether you want it to or not, either because it's already planned or because it's something that you perceive that will happen anyway, despite whatever may happen now. Much of the time both A) 'I'm meeting with Mary tomorrow' and B) 'I'll be meeting with Mary tomorrow' could be used in the same context, but, for example, B could (but not necessarily - context and you the speaker's conception of the event are key) also imply or indicate that you see it as a meeting that will take all your time.

By the way, the future continuous can also be used to make predictions about future periods of time (e.g. 'When I'm 75 years old, I'll be living in Stockholm'). It's really a rather versatile tense!

I hope this helps you a bit.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello again Elka0507,

I think the key to understanding this use of the future continuous to talk about future plans is the fact that it is a verb form with continuous aspect. Aspect shows how the speaker perceives or experiences a situation - not so much when it occurs but the contour of the event. It's as if you were imagining yourself 'inside' the situation.

You can use the future continuous to talk about an intended or arranged future event (like 'be going to' or present continuous), but by using the future continuous you show that you're thinking of the event as being in progress at that future point in time. It's as if you're thinking of the event from beginning to end and imagine yourself 'inside' the event as it is happening. 'be going to' and the present continuous don't have this same idea.

  • 'be going to' speaks about what one intends to do
  • present continuous speaks about what one has arranged to do
  • future continuous speaks about what one intends (or has arranged) to do with the additional sensation of being 'inside' the event

For example, if I want to meet with you on Thursday at 12.00 and you check your calendar and see you have an appointment at that time, you could use either present or future continuous (e.g. 'Sorry, I'm having lunch with my father'). If you used present continuous, it as if you're thinking about blocks of time (e.g. 12.00-13.00, 13.00-15.00, etc.) on that day, whereas if you use the future continuous, it shows that you're thinking about that moment in time and what you'll be doing inside that moment, e.g. sitting at a table and talking.

I expect this may not be a completely satisfying answer – this is a subtle distinction that is difficult to describe – but if you analyse how native speakers use these tenses in the future with this in mind, it should slowly become clearer (I hope!).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir
Could you tell me which one is true?
We'll know/ we'll have known a bit more this weekend when we'll research the whole thing on the internet.

Hello Puckerino,

I would say the first is correct (we'll know) as the reference is to a future time. We use the future perfect (we'll have known) when the time reference is to a point before a point in the future, and that is not the case here.

The verb in the second clause should probably be present simple (when we research) as we generally use present forms after time linkers such as this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

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