Using the Future Tense
in English


Many languages have one form to speak about the future, but there are four ways of using the future tense in English!

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These can often cause some confusion, so here are brief and basic explanations of the most common uses for each one.

Which form of the future tense should you use?

1. Simple future with (be going to)

be going to + base form of the verb (also called V1)

For example:
is + going to + swim --> "She is going to swim later."

This is usually the first future form students learn.

A) It is used when talking about future plans.

For example:
  • "I am going to visit my grandparents next week."
  • "I'm not going to eat at that restaurant again. It was terrible!"
B) It is also used to talk about future predictions if they are based on existing evidence.

For example:
  • "Look at those black clouds. I think it is going to rain."
Clouds

2. Simple future with (will)

will (or 'll, in short) + base form of the verb (also called V1)

For example:
will + swim / 'll + swim --> "She will swim tomorrow, too."

OR

"She'll swim tomorrow, too."

A) This is usually used when you are making predictions about the future. But only if it is a general prediction, and not supported by evidence.

For example:
  • "You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger."
  • "In the future, children won't go to school."
  • "I think cars will fly in the future."
A flying car

B) It is also used when a decision is made at the time of speaking.

For example:
  • "Oh no, it's raining! I think I'll take a taxi."
  • "Oh, the phone is ringing. I'll get it!"
A ringing phone

3. Present progressive

A) You can use the present progressive to talk about future arrangements.

When a plan becomes an arrangement – it is in the appointment book, tickets are booked or other arrangements are made – then we often use the present progressive.

For example:
  • "I'm playing soccer tonight. Do you want to come and watch?"
  • "My friends are getting married next week. I'm really excited!"
The difference between the future using 'going to' and the future using the present progressive is often very small if you are talking about plans. Sometimes either form would be correct.

A calendar


4. Simple present

Sometimes, the simple present is used to talk about the future if we are talking about something that is happening at a fixed time. For example, a travel timetable, class schedule, or movie times.

For example:
  • "I have to go to bed early tonight. My plane leaves at 5am tomorrow."
  • "I think the movie starts at 8:30."
A movie theater

Common mistakes

Besides using the wrong future form, students often make mistakes when making sentences using one of these forms.

The most common mistakes are:

  • Forgetting 'am/is/are' when using the 'going to' form.

    Incorrect: "I going to visit them tomorrow."
    Correct: "I am going to visit them tomorrow."

  • Forgetting 'to' when using the 'going to' form.

    Incorrect: "She is going take that test again."
    Correct: "She is going to take the test again."

  • Using the '-ing' form of the verb instead of the base form with 'going to' or 'will.'

    Incorrect: "He will winning the match."
    Incorrect: "He is going to winning the match."
    Correct: "He will win the match."

  • Adding 'to' when using 'will.'

    Incorrect: "They will to be sorry."
    Correct: "They will be sorry."


Test yourself

If you can understand why the following sentences are incorrect, then you now understand more about future forms in English.
  • I going to see my parents tomorrow.

  • I will go to the concert tomorrow. I booked my ticket this morning.

  • He is going to shopping after school.

  • They are to playing tennis this evening.

  • The train will leave at 6 o'clock tomorrow.

  • I won't to buy that cell phone. It's too expensive."
If you don't understand why the sentences are incorrect, then look at this article and the example sentences again. I'm sure you will understand the future tense soon!


Read also:

Making Predictions about the Future in English

Intentions and Arrangements in the Future

Instant Decisions and Promises in the Future

Schedules and Time Tables in the Future


Worksheet:

Predictions Worksheet and Answer Key


Buy:

Talking about the Future in English Series


Click here to download the worksheet: Future Tense Story 1.

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