What are you doing this weekend?
Do you know how to answer a question like this?
You know it’s a question about the future, but you’re not sure which future tense to use.
Well, we’re here to help!
In English, there are a few different ways to talk about the future.
We’re going to discuss three of them below: present continuous tense, “be going to,” and “will.”
It’s very common to use the present continuous tense to talk about future plans. We use it for plans that are already scheduled.
Affirmative: subject + be + -ing verb
→ I’m seeing a movie this weekend.
Negative: subject + be + not + -ing verb
→ Henry isn’t visiting his grandmother next month.
Question: be + subject + -ing verb?
→ Are you coming to the party on Saturday?
Be Going To
When you listen to a native speaker, you’ll notice that “be going to” is often used in a very similar way to present continuous. The main difference is that we also use it to talk about plans that you intend to do, but haven’t arranged yet.
Affirmative: subject + be + going to + base verb
→ Alice is going to go shopping.
Negative: subject + be + not + going to + base verb
→ Carol’s not going to do anything special on Sunday.
Question: be + subject + going to + base verb?
→ Are we going to have dinner together?
We use “will” a little bit differently—it’s not exactly used for plans. You can use it for:
Decisions at the moment of speaking
You can use “will” when you decide something at the moment of speaking (so it’s not actually a scheduled plan). For example, if someone invites you to a party, you have to make a decision at that moment. In that case, a response like “Sure, I’ll come!” makes sense.
You can use “will” to talk about what you think will happen in the future. For example, “In 20 years, everyone will have a self-driving car.”
Use “will” to make promises, such as “I’ll always love you” or “Mom, I won’t forget to do my homework!”
When you make an offer, you’re saying that you want to do something to help someone else. You can use “will” to make offers, such as “Your grocery bags look heavy! I’ll carry them for you!”
A request is a type of question where you ask someone to do something for you. For example, “Will you help me wash the dishes?”
Affirmative: subject + will + base verb
→ I will help you with your homework. (offer)
Negative: subject + will not (won’t) + base verb
→ Maya won’t tell anyone your secret. (promise)
Question: will + subject + base verb?
→ Will you come to dinner with me? (request)
→ You can add a future time expression to your sentence (e.g. tomorrow, next week, in two months) to make it more specific and clearer.
→ Don’t forget to use contractions (only when it makes sense) to sound more natural (e.g. I’m, we’re, she’s, they’ll)
There’s more than one way to talk about the future, and they’re all a bit different. Make sure you know how to use each of the future tenses we described, and you’ll be a confident speaker in no time!