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Advanced - Future Forms

Friday, 11 September 2009
Woman enjoying a sunny day on the beach Example of future: Tomorrow will be warm and sunny everywhere Designed by Nikitabuida

English grammar lesson on-line for advanced level students or teachers - A view on the different ways to express Future: will, going to, Present Continuous, Present Simple, Future Continuous, Future Perfect, Future Perfect Continuous, Future in the past, is to, is about to.

Introduction - Future forms

English has several forms which express future events. The form we choose depends on how sure we are that something will happen, whether we want something to happen, or whether we are talking about ourselves or others. ASPECT is much more important than TIME.


Will can function as an auxiliary of the future in simply predicting a future event.



A moment or period of time later than now

- We use it to make a simple statement of fact about something which will definitely happen or not happen or about future events that have been previously arranged.

- We talk about something that we think is likely to happen in the future.

- We express ideas of willingness and spontaneous intention at the moment of speaking.

  • Two bodies of different mass will reach the ground at the same moment. (Simple statement of a fact which will definitely happen)
  • The meeting will begin at 9.00 a.m. Refreshments will be available from 8.30 onwards. (Future events that have been previously arranged in detail)
  • Tomorrow will be warm and sunny everywhere (We think it's likely to happen in future)
  • Why not come over at the weekend? The children will enjoy seeing you again (We think it's likely to happen)
  • What a lovely idea to visit Chamonix during our Tour of Montblanc! I think I will do it (Idea of spontaneous intention at the moment of speaking)
  • It's agreed. If the meeting is arranged at 5.00 p.m., I will pick you up at 4.00 (Willingness expressed at the moment of speaking)

Going to

It is common in speaking and in informal writing. As it shows a premeditated intention, it is a way of referring to a future event which expresses a strong ASPECT;


A time later than now, the moment of speaking

- A statement with going to do is really a statement about the present. We use the form when we want to say a future action depends on present facts, and that we know what those facts are.

- It refers to people's plans, decisions, intentions.

- It is also used to predict a future event for which there is some evidence now.

  • What are you going to do when you leave school? (The person asks what are the plans for the future)
  • John has changed his mind. He isn't going to marry Stephanie after all (Change of plan, of intention)
  • They are looking very angry. I think they are going to start throwing stones (Evidence: they are looking angry; prediction: they are going to start...)

The Present

The Present Continuous

It is used to express an arrangement, usually for the near future. When we talk about plans, decisions or intentions on the basis of present facts, the difference in meaning between the Present Continuous and Going To is very slight.

  • I'm going to start a new job on Monday (it emphasizes more my decision; I'm telling my listener something about myself)
  • I'm starting a new job on Monday (it emphasizes more the change which will now take place according to plan; I want my listener to know about my new job)

The use of the Present Continuous indicates that we have a firm intention o have made a definite decision to do something, although this may not already be arranged.

  • Are you seeing the doctor again next week? (or Are you going to see....?)
  • I'm not asking Tom to the party (or I'm not going to ask...)

The Present Simple

The Present simple is used to express a future event which is seen as being certain because of a timetable or calendar (something published or fixed).

  • The famous Wimbledon Championship always takes place between late June and the beginning of July.
  • What time does the film start?
  • The sun rises at 5.16 tomorrow

We use the present simple (and not will) to refer to the future in time clauses with conjunctions such as after, as soon as, before, by the time, when, while.

  • When you see Dave, tell him he still owes me some money.
  • I should be finished by the time you get back.

The Future

The Future Continuous

It is used to talk about something that is predicted to start before a particular point of future time, and that may continue after this point. It expresses an activity that will be in progress around a specific time in the future.



The action takes place in the:

Future (prediction of an action starting before a specified moment in the future and continuing after this moment)

It may be going on now and we think of it continuing into the future

- It is often the result of a previous decision or arrangement

- We talk about a future activity that is part of the normal course of events or that is one of a repeated or regular series of events. So it is also a way for guessing what someone is doing now or will be doing at a later time.

- It is often used to express a casual or polite question about someone's future plans.

  • She will be taking up her place at the University of Oxford in October (Result of a previous arrangement)
  • Dr. Jones will be giving the same talk in room 193 at 10.00 next Thursday (Regular series of events)
  • We will be living for Istanbul at 7.00 in the evening (Timetabled event)
  • A - "Where is your boss? I need to talk to him.
    B - "He will be having his lunch, I suppose. It's 1.00 o'clock! (Guessing what he is doing now)
  • Will you be staying with us again tonight? (Polite question about future plans)

The Future Perfect - The Future Perfect Continuous

It expresses and action that will have finished before a definite time in the future. The Continuous form is used to show the duration of the activity at a point inthe future.


A completed period of time in the future, later than now

- We want to project ourselves into the future and look back in order to say that an action has finished.

- We use it to say that something will be ended, completed, or achieved by a particular point in the future.

- It emphasise the duration of an activity in progress at a particular point in the future.

  • By the time you receive this letter, I will have left Dublin (Achievement by a particular point in the future)
  • I will call for you at seven. Will you have finished dinner by then? (Action finished by a point in the future)
  • Next year, I will have been working in the company for 15 years (Duration of the activity in progress at a point in the future)

Other ways of expressing the Future


is to

A time later than now

- We are talking about an obligation to do something. It's similar to must and have to, but it emphasiszes the fact that certain plans or arrangements have been made for us.

- It is commonly used in news reports to talk about events that are likely to happen in the near future.

- We find it in formal or official arrangements, formal instructions and to give orders.

- With is to, the future events we are talking about can be controlled by people.

  • Nobody is to leave the room until the examination is over (Obligation)
  • The main Rome to Naples railway line is to e reopened today (Passive form; news reports)
  • The European Parliament is to introduce a new law on safety at work (Official arrangement)
  • The President is to return to Brazil later today (or will return...) - but
  • The comet will return to our solar system in around 500 years (not ... is to return... because the movement of the comet can't be controlled)

is about to

A time shortly or immediately after now, the moment of speaking

- We want to emphasize that something will happen very soon.

- It is commonly used in conversations

  • The boat is about to leave. Would all visitors please leave the boat right away. Thank you. (Public announcement of something that will happen in the very near future)
  • We are just about to eat. Do you want to join us? (Conversation; the dinner is something that will happen very soon)
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Last modified on Saturday, 27 October 2018 20:26

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