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Future Forms

Future Forms Grammar Guide


English does not have a future tense. We use a variety of existing structures  to talk about the future. A useful way to think about future forms in English is to consider when the decision is made rather than think about  the action.

There are three fundamental future structures in English

i) Will + INF

ii) Going to + INF (Present continuous of go)

iii) Present continuous

These structures are  explored on the links provided above but please note that in both Will and going to the action is presented in the infinitive. For the present continuous it is to be plus gerund. In no case is there a new form of  the verb or tense to learn. This means we can concentrate on function.

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We can recognise the difference between the  three structures as a way of understanding the decision for the action.  Sometimes textbooks will talk about concrete and less concrete actions  but this really applies to the decision.

Future Actions

We use Will + INF to:

  • announce a decision or talk about immediate decisions we make in the moment of speaking

If the cinema is closed what will you do?

I will have a party on Saturday instead!

We use be going to + INF to:

  • talk about an intention, a decision we have already made

Well the box office tell me the cinema is closed

That's ok, I'm going to have a party on Saturday

We use Present Cont. (with reference to time) to:

  • talk about a plan. An  intention that has involved preparation. Not only have you made the  decision but you have performed actions to prepare.

I'm having a party on Saturday, I have booked the room, bought the drinks and paid the DJ

Future Predictions

We use be going to + INF to:

  • make predictions based on current evidence.

If we look at the satellite picture we can be sure it is going to rain tomorrow

Look at that big black cloud, it is going to rain

We use Will to:

  • make predictions based on experience or guesswork

I think we will win the lottery at the weekend

We DO NOT use Present Continuous to make predictions

It's raining again soon

Use going to + inf instead:

It's going to rain again soon

Related Topics

Further information on Will/Shall here

What is the difference between Will & Shall

Decisions about future actions

Offers of help

Facts about the future

Shall with I & We

Expressions to talk about the future here

Be to/Be due to/Be about to/Be on the point of

The Present Simple in the future here

Using the Present Simple to discuss events in the future

A timetable/A schedule/A known fact/An arrangement

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