Future Forms

Future Forms Grammar Guide

Form

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.

Function

Form

Will + INF

Going to + INF

Present Cont.

Example

I will have a party on Saturday

I'm going to have a party on Saturday

I'm having a party on Saturday

Decision

Immediate - In the moment of speaking

Made - The decision was in the past

Arrangement - Plans have been made

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:

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

                      

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

  • 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

                                                                                                     I am failing my exam unless I do more work

                      

Future Predictions

Further information on Will/Shall 

Further expressions to talk about the future

Further future structures

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