Tenses for Future
by Rob Lane
There are a number of tenses used to speak about the future. Some of these are present tenses used with a future sense while others are specifically future only. Sometimes learners can be confused by the functions of each tense. This is not helped by the fact that some tenses share functions and so more than one tense may be used for the same idea. In this article, I will outline the main functions of the four most common tenses used for the future and compare and contrast the various tenses.
Schedules (trains, flights, cinema times etc)
The bus for Kingston leaves at 6pm this evening.
The next screening of this film begins in twenty minutes.
The clinic opens at 9am tomorrow morning as it usually does.
Future Simple (Will + verb)
New decisions/ reactions to new information
- A. Our friend has had an accident and is now in hospital.
- B. Oh dear. I will visit him as soon as possible.
I think that it will rain this evening.
Statement of future fact
Tomorrow at 9.45, I will be here.
Going to + verb
I’m going to have a holiday next summer.
I’m going to introduce you to the group in a moment.
Organised/ planned future
I’m flying to Majorca with Mary Jane next Friday.
If you are speaking about the departure time of a bus, train, or plane, use Present Simple.
If you are responding to new information, or make your decision at the time of speaking, use Will.
If you want to say that you have decided to do something but have not yet organised the time, place and so forth, use going to + verb.
If you have decided to do something and know the location, time and people, use Present Continuous.
Note: If you are not sure which tense, use going to + verb
Comparison and Contrast
You will notice that some tenses have more than one function. For this reason, it is often possible to justify the use of different tenses. For example:
Will and Going to for prediction
Barry will be/ is going to be heartbroken when he hears the news.
Present Continuous and Going to
I’m going to meet Thomas at three o’clock this afternoon.
If an event is organised, it must also have intention. If we have such details, we normally use Present Continuous. However, we can also use Going to if we want to stress intention.
Remember to use Present Simple in time clauses with all of these tenses.
When I get home, I’ll take a shower.
When I see him, I’m going to ask him.
As soon as we arrive, a driver is collecting us from the airport.
Write dialogues for a number of different situations to practice the functions.