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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

What is the difference between the following sentence?

When will you be arriving?
AND
When are you going to arrive?

Hello Montri,
Both sentences describe future time and have similar meanings.
The first sentence ('...will be arriving') describes something that is expected. We use this form to describe things that we see as normal and unsurprising in the future.
The second sentence ('...going to...') describes a person's intention or plan.
~
You can read more about ways of talking about the future on these pages:
https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/talking-about-fu...
https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/future-plans
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

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

Hello,
In one of the previous messages, two sentences were discussed:
1) I think astronauts will land on Mars by the year 2020.
2) I think astronauts will have landed on Mars by the year 2020.
Kirk replied that both alternatives are possible.
If you don't mind, I'd like to add a question of my own.
1) Does it mean that we can always use both Future Simple and Future Perfect interchangeably in similar sentences with 'by'? For example:
- By the year 2040 the world's population will reach/will have reached 9 billion.
- We will get back/will have got back to the hotel by seven.
- In ten years' time I'll get married and have three kids / I'll have got married and had three kids.

Perhaps the degree of certainty might be different? What do you think?
Thank you very much for your answer!

Hello EvgenyAndreev,
Both options are possible and there is no difference in meaning in these examples. The by-phrase already contains a sense of 'complete before' so it makes no difference if 'will' or 'will have' is used.
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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