Future Tense

by | Mar 31, 2020 | Grammar For IELTS

Future Tense:


Plans, Intentions and predictions: Present Continuous; Going to; Will

1 Present continuous

A. We use the present continuous to talk about plans or definite arrangements for the future:

  • We’re staying in a small hotel. (we have made the arrangements).

Notice that time expressions are used or understood from the context in order to show that we are talking about the future (and not the present):

  • The manager is having a party just after we get back. (time expression given).
  • We’re playing four matches there. (future time expression understood).
  • Fine, listen, I know this is short notice but are you doing anything tonight?


2. Will

  • will + verb = We’ll enjoy it.
  • will not (won’t) + verb = He won’t enjoy it.
  • …+ verb? = Will they enjoy it?

We use will:

A. To make predictions, usually based on our opinions or our past experience:

  • I think it’ll be extremely hot there.

B. To talk about future events we haven’t arranged yet:

  • We’ll probably stay in some sort of mountain lodge there.

C. To talk about future events or facts that are not personal:

  • The best player on the tour will get a special trophy
  • The prime minister will open the debate in parliament tomorrow.

D. To talk about something we decide to do at the time of speaking:

  • Tell me all about it and I’ll pass on the information to the rest of the team.
  • We often use will to make offers, promises or suggestions:
  • Don’t worry, I’ll let everyone know. (a promise)


3. Going to

  • am/is/are + going to + verb = We’re going to hire u buy.
  • am/is/are not + going to + verb = If he’s not going to hire a bus.
  • am/is/are + going to + verb? = Are they going to hire a bus?

Going to often means the same as the present continuous and will.

We use going to:

A. To talk about events in the future we have already thought about and intend to do:

  • We’re going to hire a bus. (we intend to go, but we haven’t made the arrangements yet)
  • We’re going to get a boat to a couple of the islands.

B. To make predictions when there is present evidence:

  • Well, we’re certainly going to have a varied trip. (I am judging this from what I know about the plans)

Going to and will can follow words like think, doubt, expect, believe, probably, certainly, definitely, be sure to show that it is an opinion about the future:

  • I think it’s going to be a great trip.
  • I’m sure we’ll enjoy it whatever the weather.
  • It’ll probably rain every day.

We can often choose different future forms to talk about the same future situation. It depends on the speaker’s ideas about the situation:

Present continuous or going to?

  • The manager is having a party when we get back. (definite arrangement)
  • We’re going to hire a bus and then drive through the mountains. (less definite arrangement – we haven’t booked the bus yet)

Going to or will?

  • I’m sure we’ll enjoy it. (prediction based on my guess)
  • We’re going to have a very varied trip! (prediction based on what I know about the weather)

Often there is very little difference between going to and will for predictions.

4. Grammar extra:

Making predictions using words other than will

In formal writing we often use expressions other than will to predict the future (e.g. be likely to, be predicted to, be estimated to, be certain to):

  • The population is likely to increase to 22 million in 2011.
  • The average annual rainfall is predicted to be ten per cent lower than today’s figures.


5. Present simple

We use the present simple with a future meaning

A. To talk about timetables or schedules:

  • The conference only lasts three days.
  • The train to the airport leaves in 20 minutes.

B. After conjunctions such as when, as soon as, after, before, until, as long as:

  • I’ll be feeling really nervous when I get to Rome. (not when I will get to Rome).
  • Can you do it before we have the departmental meeting? (not before we will have the meeting)

Note that other present tenses are also possible:

  • I won’t be able to relax until I’m actually giving my talk.


6. Be about to

  • am/is/are about to + verb = I’m about to go to Rome.
  • am/is/are not about to + verb = I’m not about to go to Rome.
  • am/is/are + verb? = Are you about to go to Rome?

We use be about to to talk about something likely to happen in the immediate future:

  • I’m about to go to Rome for a conference. (I will be leaving very soon)

NOTE: The negative form suggests the speaker has no intention of doing something:

  • I’m not about to cancel my trip. (= I have no intention of cancelling my trip)


7. Future continuous

  • will be + verb + -ing = I’ll be feeling nervous.
  • will not (won’t) be + verb + -ing = She won’t be feeling nervous.
  • will … be + verb + -ing? = Will you be feeling nervous?

We use the future continuous

A. To describe or predict events or situations continuing at a particular point in the future or over a period of time in the future:

  • I’ll be working on the report all next week. (NEXT WEEK)
  • I’ll be thinking of you in Rome.
  • By the year 2015, it is estimated that well over one billion people will be learning English.

B. To talk about events that are planned or already decided (this use is similar to the present continuous for future arrangements):

  • I’ll be seeing Sarah at lunch.


8. Future perfect simple

  • will have + past participle = We will have done it by then.
  • will not (won’t) have + past participle = We won’t have done it by then.
  • will + have + past participle? = Will you have done it by then?

We use the future perfect simple to talk about a future event that will finish before a specified time in the future, often with before, by + fixed time, or in + amount of time:

  • By the end of the year, I will have given the same talk at 6 conferences!
  • I’ll have finished it by next Friday.
  • In a week’s time, I’ll have written the report.

9. Future perfect continuous

will have been + verb + -ing = I’ll have been swaying here for three months.

will not (won’t) have been + verb + -ing = We won’t have been studying here for long.

will … + have been + verb + -ing? = How long will you have been studying here?

We use the future perfect continuous to show how long an activity or situation has been in progress before a specified time in the future. We usually mention the length of time:

  • By the end of the month, I’ll have been working here for three years.


10. Grammar extra:

The future in the past

We use was/were going to, was/were planning to, was/were about to + verb to talk something planned which did not or will not happen:

  • I was going to leave this morning but they cancelled my flight.
  • We were about to leave when the phone rang.

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