Future tenses: the basics

by | May 11, 2020

There are four main ways to speak about the future in English:

  1. With will/won’t + infinitive. We use this for
  • things we have just decided to do: I’ll ask Ben to help me.
  • predictions that are based on opinions and are not very certain: I think that many more languages will soon die out.
  • things we are certain will happen in the future: The school won’t be open in August.
  • for making offers, asking for things, promising things or refusing things: Will you come with me?
  1. With going to + infinitive. We use this for
  • intentions, i.e. things that were already decided before you spoke about them: I’m going to wash my hair later.
  • Predictions that are based on evidence rather than opinion: I’ve lost my coat again. Mum’s going to be really angry.
  1. The present continuous. We use this for
  • definite arrangements: What are you doing next weekend?
  1. The present simple. We use this for
  • events that are scheduled: The train leaves in half an hour.
  • after words like before, as soon as and when: I’ll give Gemma your message when I see her.

There are also some more complex future forms:

  1. The future perfect. We use this for
  • showing that something will be completed before a particular time in the future: The work will have finished by Friday.
  1. The future continuous. We use this for
  • actions in the future that will continue: We will be working on this project for many years.
  1. The future perfect continuous. We use this for
  • actions that will have already started before the time in the future we are talking about: He will have been working here for ten years next month.

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About Liz Walter

About Liz Walter

Liz Walter is a freelance lexicographer, teacher and writer, living in Cambridge, UK. She worked for many years on Cambridge University Press's range of ELT dictionaries and now works with Kate Woodford on books about the English language. Her other interests include politics, growing vegetables and family holidays in her camper van. She tweets at @LizJWalter