Future tenses in English
|Subject index:||Using the present tense||Using will and going to||Using shall||Negative forms|
Forms of the future in English
One of the common ways to express future time in English is to use the present tense.Although there is a "future tense" which is formed by using the modal auxiliary will, or occasionally shall, there are many situations in which it is not necessary to use either of these. If other elements in a sentence, such as an adverb like tomorrow, clearly refer to future time, then it may well not be necessary to use a specific future tense. A present tense will do.
Another option for expressing the future is to use the verb form going to. For more details on when to use going to, see below.
Note: current linguistic theory often describes English as a language with only two tenses, the present and the past. This is one among many ways of defining tenses in English. In the world of language teaching, English grammar is far more easily explained using historic six-tense or twelve-tense models. There is no absolute truth, as there is no universal definition of what the word tense actually means in English. See How many tenses does English have?
present tense in English to talk about future events: look at this short dialogue:
"We’re staying at home. I’m working all summer!"
"Oh what a pity. Don’t you even get a week off?"
“"Well perhaps; we may go to Wales for a couple of days."
You can choose whichever explanation you prefer. They are both valid.
This does not mean that using a clear future tense would be wrong; it would be possible to add the words going to to stress the future nature of events (remembering that going to is actually the present progressive tense of go .)
"We’re going to stay at home; I’m going to work all summer."
"Oh what a pity. Aren’t you even going to get a week off?"
"Well perhaps; maybe we'll go to Wales ...."
Look at this dialogue:
"Yes; my plane gets in at 8.15."
"O.K. then, I’ll meet you at the airport."
A future form with will is also needed whenever it is necessary to avoid confusion between present and future (for example when there is no adverb of time present), or to express planned events, even if an adverb of time is present.
It may also be required in order to underline the future nature of an action or situation. Compare:
Will and going to ARE NOT USED in two specific cases :
► With modal verbs......
If it is essential to mark the future aspect of a modal structure, it is necessary to use have to instead of must, and be able to instead of can, as in:
One could also say: You must do better next time.
► In time clauses after if, when, as soon as, unless, after, before, while etc, a “present tense” future is used. On the other hand a future with will (or going to) is required in the main clause if the action is in the future. Compare the verbs tenses in these examples.
He'll open the door as soon as he hears the bell.
I’ll tell you the rest of the story when we get home.
They’ll mend it for you while you wait.
You’ll do whatever you’re told to do!
Note that the colloquial contraction gonna is never normally used in written English, but is common in spoken English except in formal style. More than a contracted form of going to, it is a phonetic condensation of the two words as one, with a range of pronunciations including [gɔnə], [gənə] or even [gə:ntə], and many speakers do not even notice when they condense the two words.
"I'm gonna get a pizza"
"And now, in front of the world's TV cameras, the President is going to [gə:ntə] sign the treaty on behalf his country...."
2.3 is to / are to:
Future actions can also be expressed using the auxiliary be, most commonly with the forms Is to / are to . Stylistically this is rather formal, and is used to express planned or commanded future events.
The President is to visit Los Angeles next month, for discussions with the Governor.
I shan't be able to come next week, as I'm away on business.
To avoid any risk of error, the simplest principle to adopt is "never say shall". Don't use these forms! They are slightly archaic, and there is no case in which they are the only option possible.
► See also : Modal verbs of obligation
For the future perfect tense (as in They will have finished before midnight), see past tenses
For negative forms of the present tense used with a future meaning, see the present tense.
- The negative forms of will are won't or will not
- The negative forms of going to are not going to, with full or contracted forms of the auxiliary.
- The negative forms of shall are shan't or shall not.
The guard isn't going to / is not going to open the doors until 9 a.m.
I shan't be able to come next week, as I'm on holiday.
Future forms of verbs in the passive
See The Passive
For comparison: Expressing the future in French
Copyright : Website and texts © Linguapress.com renewed 2021 except where otherwise indicated