Talking about the Future

Sometimes we need to talk about our plans, wishes, & arrangements that have not happened yet and are related to the future.

"Talking about the Future" in the English Grammar

How to Talk about Future?

In the English language, there are several ways to talk about the future using different tenses and auxiliaries. However, grammarians often claim that English has no 'future tense.'
Let's see how we can talk about the future in English:

Talking about Plans and Arrangements

When we want to talk about plans, we can use the Present Continuous. The 'present continuous' tense is mostly used to talk about what is happening now, when we want to talk about the future and not the present, we should use a future time expression. Compare these examples:

I am making lasagna. → present time → this is happening at the moment of speaking

I am making lasagna tomorrow night. → future → this is what the speaker is going to do tomorrow night

You can also use the form 'be going to' without any difference in the meaning of the sentence.

I'm going to make lasagna.

She's going to buy a car.

Talking about Timetables and Schedules

When we want to talk about timetables, schedules, etc. we use the Simple Present tense, for example when we want to talk about times at which buses, trains, planes arrive and leave, movie times, classes, etc.

My algebra class starts on Tuesday.

The plane to Moscow leaves at 7:15.

Talking about Decisions

When we want to talk about a spontaneous decision (when we decide to do something at the very moment of speaking) We use 'will.' Look at the examples:

'Someone's at the door.' 'I'll get it.'

'That dress is gorgeous.' 'I'll buy it!'

'Going to' and the 'present continuous' structures are also used to talk about decisions, but we use 'will' when we are making a spontaneous decision. Do not use 'will' to talk about future plans that have already been decided. Let's compare these sentences:

I'm wearing that dress tonight. → I've made a planned decision to wear that dress tonight.

I'm going to wear that dress tonight. → Maybe I've only decided to wear the dress.

I'll wear that dress tonight. → I just decided right now.

I can't stay because I'm going to take the kids to the park.

I decided to study law because I'm going to be a lawyer.

Talking about Predictions

When we want to predict the future based on evidence and facts, we use 'be going to.' For example:

Marta is pregnant. They're going to have a baby.

Look at all these dark clouds in the sky, I think it's going to rain.

But, sometimes when we want to predict something about the future, it is not based on facts. We are only making subjective personal predictions based on our intuition or what we believe. In this case, use 'will' instead of 'be going to.' Check out the examples:

If you go on an African Safari, you will probably see hippos.

Stop worrying about the wedding. It will be fine. You'll look great.

Using Future with 'Going to' to Talk about Predicting the Future

Tip!

In fact, predictions with 'be going to' are more undeniable than predictions expressed with 'will.' So, when we want to show that we are extremely sure about our prediction, we use 'be going to' for subjective predictions. For example:

Stop worrying about the wedding. It is going to be fine. You are going to look great.

Talking about Want and Willingness

It is possible to use 'will' to talk about things that we are able or free to do in the very near future. Look at the examples:

I hope they will agree with my suggestion.

Of course I will help you.

We usually use 'will' instead of 'be going to' to show that we are willing to do something right away or as soon as we can. If we use 'be going to,' it sounds more like we plan to do it, but not right away. For example:

I'll call him to make sure. → I'll do it right away.

I'm going to call him to make sure. → I'll do it eventually, but not right away.

Talking about Offers and Promises

We use 'will' when we are making offers or suggestions. For example:

Are you tired? I will make you a cup of tea.

Do you need that? I will buy that for you.

Kevin will help with the cleaning.

Talking about Commands and Refusals

When we want to make people do or not do things in the near future or at the time of speaking, we can use the present continuous.

Excuse me – you are not borrowing my car!

She's not wearing that dress to school!

The present continuous is also used when someone invites us to do something, and we want to refuse. Check out the examples:

'Do you want to do something this weekend?' 'I'm visiting my grandparents this weekend.'

'We're going to a club tonight. Do you want to join us?' 'I'm helping my sister with her homework.'

Talking about a Future Plan or Appointment

When we want to confirm a future plan or appointment, we can use the future continuous.
You can use phrases like 'just to confirm' or 'just to make sure' to let people know your future plans. For example:

Just to confirm, the waiter will be bringing up your dinner to your room at 8:00 p.m.

Just to make sure, we'll be delivering you a pizza in one hour.

Talking about a Threat or Promise

When we want to complain about a service or a product and we want to show that we will be taking some kind of action we can use the future continuous. Here are the examples:

He'd better fix my broken LCD or he'll be hearing from me!

No doubt I'll be posting a negative review about this hotel!

The future continuous is also used to make a promise or to let people know that you will be doing what you said you would do. For example:

If you wait one more hour, I'll be driving you home. I promise.

If he starts being rude, we'll be leaving that place. I swear.

Talking about Finished Actions by a Certain Time in the Future

If you want to talk about what you will have done by a certain time in the future or something that will be finished by a certain time, you can use the future perfect. Look at the examples:

By the time you read this, I will have left.

You will have finished your report by this time next week.

Talking about Future Accomplishments or Experiences

The future perfect can also be used when you want to talk about your dreams or things you wish you will have done or experienced by the end of a certain period. Here are the examples:

After this trip, we will have been to 4 different places.

After this job, you will have earned so much money.

I hope that, by the end of this year, I'll have met the love of my life.

Review

There are different ways to talk about the future in English. Let us see what options there are to use, in each situation. Check out the table below:

Present Progressive Will Going to
Plans
Decision
Prediction
Promise
Command
Willingness
Offer
Refusal

We can use the 'present simple' to refer to the future, only when we are talking about the timetables or TV programs.

Comments

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