There are several tenses which express future in English:
1. The simple present
2. will + infinitive (used for intention)
3. The present continuous
4. The “be going to” form
5. The future simple: will/shall + infinitive
6. The future continuous
7. The future perfect
8. The future perfect continuous
But we also have be + infinitive used for future plans
– The expedition is to start in a week´s time
This construction is very much used in newspapers
– The Prime Minister is to make a statement tomorrow
Be bout + infinitive expresses the immediate future
– They are about to start (They are just going to start)
Just can be added to make the future even more immediate
– They are just about to leave
Similarly in the past
– He was just about to dive when he saw the shark
Be on the point/verge/brink of + gerund has the same meaning as about + infinitive but a more immediate shade
– She is on the point of leaving.
- The simple present tense: used for the future
This tense can be used with a time expression for a definite future arrangement
– I leave tonight.
Instead of the present continuous tense
– I´m leaving tonight.
The difference between them is that the simple present is more impersonal than the continuous. “ I am leaving tonight” implies that I have decided to leave but “I leave tonight” means that it is a plan not necessarily made by me. The simple present can also sound more formal than the continuous.
- Will + infinitive used to express intention at the moment of decision:
– The phone is ringing
– I´ll answer it
For unpremeditated actions, we must use will. But if after this decision the speaker mentions the action again, he will not use will but “be going to” or the present continuous
- The present continuous tense: as a future form
The time must be mentioned, otherwise there may be a confusion between present and future.
The present continuous can express a definite future arrangement in the near future.
– I´m taking an exam in October (it implies I have entered for it)
If there has merely been an expression of intention, we use the be going to form.
But with verbs of movement from one place to another (arrive, come, drive, fly, go, leave, start, travel), verbs indicating position (remain, stay) and the verbs do and have (food or drink) the present continuous can be used more widely. It can express a decision or plan without any definite arrangement.
This method of expressing the future cannot be used with verbs which are not normally used in the continuous tenses (verbs of the senses, mental activity, possession, auxiliaries, feelings and emotions). These verbs should be put into the future simple (will/shall)
– I will know him tonight
However, see when it is used for a deliberate action can be used in the continuous tenses
– I´m seeing him tomorrow (I have an appointment with him)
To be can be used in the continuous tenses when it forms part of a passive verb
– He is being met at the station tonight
- The be going to form:
Form: Its form is the present continuous tense of the verb to go + the full infinitive
This form is used for intention and for prediction
- The be going to form used for intention:
The be going to form expresses the subject´ s intention to perform a certain future action. This intention is always premeditated and some preparation for the action has already been made.
Actions expressed by the be going to form are very likely to be performed. Be going to can be used with time clauses when we wish to emphasize the subject´ s intention.
– He is going to be a dentist when he grows up.
The be going to form can be used with the verb to be and with other verbs not normally used in the continuous tenses.
– I am going to think about it.
It is not very usual to put the verbs go and come into the be going to form. Instead of saying “ I´m going to go” we normally say “ I am going” and instead of “ I´m going to come” we normally say “ I am coming”.
Very often we can use either the be going to form or will + infinitive but there are differences between them:
The be going to form always implies a premeditated intention and often an intention + plan. Will + infinitive implies intention alone and this intention is usually unpremeditated. So, if preparations for the action have been made, we must use be going to.
– I have bought some bricks and I am going to build a garage.
If the intention is clearly unpremeditated, we must use will.
– There is somebody at the hall door
– I´ll go and open it.
When the intention is neither clearly unpremeditated nor clearly premeditated, either be going to or will may be used, but will is the best way of expressing determination.
– I will help you
Will + infinitive in the affirmative is used almost entirely for the first person. Second and third person intentions are normally expressed by be going to.
– He is going to resign
But in the negative won´t can be used for all persons.
– He won´t resign
Be going to usually refers to the fairly immediate future and will can refer either to the immediate or to the more remote future.
- The be going to form used for prediction:
The be going to form can express the speaker´s feelings of certainty. The time us usually not mentioned, but the action is expected to happen in the near or immediate future
– Look at those clouds! It is going to rain.
It can be used after verbs such as be sure, be afraid, believe, think.
– How pale that girl is! I think she is going to faint
Comparison of be going to (used for prediction) with will (used for probable future): Be going to implies that there are signs that something will happen, will implies that the speaker thinks that it will happen.
Be going to is normally used about the immediate future, will doesn´ t imply any particular time and could refer to the remote future.
- The future simple:
Form: The form is will /shall + bare infinitive
Formerly will was kept for intention and shall was used when there was no intention, that is, for actions where the subject´ s wishes were not involved.
– I will wait for you
– I shall be 25 next week
Shall is still found in formal English but is no longer common in conversation. Instead we normally use will. Shall, however, is still used in the interrogative.
– In question tags after let´s: Let´s go, shall we?
– In suggestions: Shall we take a taxi?
– In requests for orders or instructions: What shall we do with your mail?
– In speculations: Where shall we be this time next year?
Shall for determination: Determination is normally expressed by will. But sometimes public speakers feel that to express determination, they need a heavier word, and so they say shall. Shall used in this way sometimes carries the idea of promise which we get in the second person shall
– You shall have a sweet. (I promise you a sweet)
Uses of the future simple:
- To express the speaker´s opinions, assumptions, speculations about the future. These may be introduced by verbs such as assume, be afraid, be sure, believe, daresay, doubt, expect, hope, know, suppose, think, wonder or accompanied by adverbs such as perhaps, possibly, probably, surely
– (I´m sure) he will come back
– (Perhaps) he will find her at the hotel
The future simple can be used with or without a time expression.
- The future simple is used similarly for future habitual actions which we assume will take place
– Spring will come again.
- The future simple is used in sentences containing clause of condition, time and sometimes purpose.
– If I drop this glass it will break.
– When it gets warmer, the snow will start to melt
– I´m putting this letter on top of the pile so that he will read it first
- Verbs not normally used in the continuous tenses (auxiliary verbs, verbs of senses, of emotion, thinking, possessing) usually express the future by the future simple
– They will know tonight
- The future simple is used chiefly in newspapers and news broadcast for formal announcements of future plans and for weather forecasts. In conversations such statements would normally be expressed by the present continuous or be going to form
– The fog will persist in all areas
- Won´t can be used with all persons to express negative intention. I/ we will can express affirmative intention but he/you/they will do not normally express intention.
- The future continuous tense:
Form: This tense is made up of the future simple of to be + the present participle.
In the first person, will is more usual than shall except in the interrogative.
Uses: This tense has 2 uses
1. Used as an ordinary continuous tense: Like other continuous tenses, it is normally used with a point of time and expresses an action which starts before that time and probably continuous after it.
– At 6 I´ll be having a bath
2. Used to express future without intention: It implies an action which will occur in the normal course of events.
This tense is similar to the present continuous but differs a bit, it is less definite and more casual the present continuous.
– I am seeing Tom tomorrow. (The speaker has deliberately arranged the meeting)
– I will be seeing Tom tomorrow. (The speaker will meet him in the normal course of events)
The present continuous can only be used with a definite time and for a near future, while the future continuous can be used with or without a definite time and for the near or distant future.
– I am meeting him tomorrow.
– I will be meeting him tomorrow/ next year/ sometime
The future continuous and will + infinitive compared: will + infinitive expresses future intention and the future continuous expresses future without intention.
- The future perfect:
Form: Will / shall + the prefect infinitive for first persons, will + the prefect infinitive for the other persons.
Uses: It is normally used with a time expression beginning with by: by then, by that time etc.
– By the end of next month he will have been here for 10 years.
It is used for an action which at a given future time will be in the past or will just have finished
- The future perfect continuous:
Form: Will / shall + have been + the present participle for first persons, will + have been + the present participle for the other persons.
Uses: Like the future perfect, it is used with a time expression beginning with by:
– By the end of this year he will have been acting for 30 years.
The future perfect continuous can be used instead of the future perfect when the action is continuous or the action is expressed as continuous action.
– By the end of the month he will have been training horses for 20 years.