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Talking About the Future

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!

Future Tenses

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.”

Present Continuous 

It’s very common to use the present continuous tense to talk about future plans. We use it for plans that are already scheduled. 

Form

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.

Form

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?

Will

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. 

Predictions 

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.”

Promises 

Use “will” to make promises, such as “I’ll always love you” or “Mom, I won’t forget to do my homework!”

Offers

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!”

Requests

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?”

Form

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)

Notes 

→ 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)

Conclusion

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!

Andrea is a Gabby Academy coach and education technolgy writer based in Vancouver, Canada.

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