There are many different ways to express the future in English. Having problems with future forms yet? Find below a comprehensive table which will help you once for all:
|% probability||structure||used for||example|
|0%||WILL||no plan/ decision promiseprediction||Don’t get up. I’ll answer the phone.|
|70%||BE GOING TO||intention prediction (based on evidence)||We’re going to watch TV tonight.|
|90%||PRESENT CONTINUOUS||plans arrangementsappointments||I’m taking my exam in June.|
|99.999%||PRESENT SIMPLE||schedule||My plane takes off at 6.00am tomorrow.|
Not clear yet? take this test to practice it.
WARNING! No Future in Time Clauses
No future forms can be used in clauses beginning with time expressions such as: when, while, before, after, by the time, as soon as, if, unless, etc. Instead, simple Present is used.
- When you will arrive tonight, we will go out for dinner. Not Correct
- When you arrive tonight, we will go out for dinner. Correct
English has some verbs referring which imply a future meaning so, even though they appear in present simple, they make reference to a future situation. These verbs are:
aim to – hope to – be due to – plan to – set out to
Try this exercise to check your understanding
Apart from the forms above mentioned, English has two more future forms:
|FORM: [will be + present participle]Examples: You will be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.FORM: [am/is/are + going to be + present participle]Examples: You are going to be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.
REMEMBER: It is possible to use either “will” or “be going to” to create the Future Continuous with little difference in meaning
USE 1 Interrupted Action in the Future
Use the Future Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the future will be interrupted by a shorter action in the future.
Examples: I will be watching TV when she arrives tonight.
In addition to using short actions as interruptions, you can also use a specific time as an interruption.
Examples: Tonight at 6 PM, I am going to be eating dinner (I will be in the process of eating dinner)
USE 2 Parallel Actions in the Future
When you use the Future Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions will be happening at the same time.
|FORM: [will have + past participle]Examples: You will have improved your English by the time you come back from the U.S.FORM: [am/is/are + going to have + past participle]Examples: You are going to have improved your English by the time you come back from the U.S.
NOTE: It is possible to use either “will” or “be going to” to create the Future Perfect with little or no difference in meaning.
USE 1 Completed Action Before Something in the Future
The Future Perfect expresses the idea that something will occur before another action in the future or before a specific time in the future.
Notice in the examples above that the reference points (marked in italics) are in Simple Present, this is because the interruptions are in time clauses and you cannot use future tenses in time clauses.
Now you are ready to read everyone’s future… try this exercise to check what you understood.