- To express a prediction - As human beings, we can only speculate about the future; in other words, we never know for certain what will happen in the future. We can only predict, or make guesses about future events, based on what we know now. Weather reporters try to predict the weather for the next few days, economists try to predict the state of the nation's economy in the following year, business people try to predict how much money they will make, and students try to predict what grade they will get at the end of the semester. When an event is probable or possible, it is a prediction.
- To express a prior plan - We can also use the future tense to express a prior plan. We know that an event will happen because we have already planned it. We are going to make the event happen. For example, I am going to stop by at the bank in the afternoon because I already thought about it and decided to go this morning. I intend to go to the bank.
- To express willingness - Sometimes, an event will occur in the future because we volunteer to do it at the moment of speaking. It is not making a prediction or a plan; it is someone being willing or choosing to do it. If a parent asks his or her child to wash the dishes, the child can choose to do it. The child did not plan to wash the dishes, but he or she can volunteer when asked by the parent. To express a future event that is on a regular schedule - We know that something will happen in the future also because it is part of a regular schedule. Some of the things on a regular schedule are the bus, train, plane, movies, work, businesses and school. For example, tomorrow is Friday, and we know that Macy's Department Store closes at 9 p.m. every Friday. Therefore, we know that the store will close tomorrow at 9 p.m. We can make this prediction because the store has always closed at 9 p.m. in the past, and it will continue to follow the regular schedule and close at 9 on Fridays in the future. Only a few words apply in this category, e.g open, close, begin, start, arrive, leave, etc.
There are four ways to express the future time - will,be going to, present progressive and simple present - but their usage is not identical. Study the chart below:
Predictions Prior Plans Willingness Regular Schedules
(a) will (c) be going to (e) will (f) simple present
(b) be going to (d) present progressive (g) present progressive
(a) You are studying so hard. You will get an A on the test. (b) You are studying so hard. You are probably going to get an A on the test.
(c) Emily has invited her friends over for tomorrow. They are going to watch a video together. (d) But Tom can't come. He is playing baseball tomorrow.
(e) A: It's getting late. Can somebody take me home?
B: I will take you home.
(f) The bus leaves in 10 minutes. You'd better hurry up, or you will miss the bus. (g) The movie is starting at 7:30 p.m. We will have enough time to have dinner first.
* The main verb is always in the base form.
a. will + verb
b. be going to + verb ('be' is in the simple present tense form)
- It will rain tomorrow.
- It is going to rain tomorrow.
a. will + not + verb (contracted = won't)
b. be + not + going to + verb
- Ron will not come to school next week.
- Ron won't come to school next week.
- Ron is not going to come to school next week.
a. will + subject + verb
b. be + subject + going to + verb
- Will the energy crisis continue for a long time?
- Is the energy crisis going to continue for a long time?
Future Time Clauses
A time clause is a dependent clause that begins with a time adverb such as when, after, before, as soon as, until, while, and it must be connected to an independent clause. Even though the actions in both the time clause and the independent clause will happen in the future, the verb in the time clause is in the simple present tense while the verb in the independent clause is in the future tense. For example:
- When William gets home, he will take a shower.
('When William gets home' is a time clause and it expresses a future event. )
- I will pay the rent after I receive my paycheck.
('after I receive my paycheck' is a time clause and it also expresses a future event.)
When the sentence begins with a time clause, there is a comma before the independent clause. When the time clause follows the independent clause, there is no comma.
The future progressive tense describes an action that will be in progress at a specific time in the future, and it will continue even further into the future. Remember that stative verbs cannot be in the progressive.
A: I will call you tomorrow at 7 a.m.
B: But tomorrow is Saturday! I will be sleeping at that time.
When Christy graduates from college, her sister is going to be starting high school.
a. will be + verb-ing
b. be going to + be + verb-ing
- At 7:30 a.m tomorrow, I will be driving in heavy traffic.
- At 7:3p a.m. tomorrow, I am going to be driving in heavy traffic.
a. will + not + be + verb-ing
b. be + not + be + verb-ing
- When Derek moves to New York, he will not be taking all his furniture.
- When Derek moves to New York, he is not going to be taking all his furniture.
a. will + subject + be + verb-ing
b. be + subject + be + verb-ing
- Will you be using the computer when I get home from school?
- Are you going to be using the computer when I get home from school?
The future perfect tense is used to describe an event that will be completed before another future event. It is to emphasize that it will be finished by a certain time in the future. The future perfect is often used with the time adverb by the time and adverbs already and yet, and only 'will', not 'be going to' is used for the perfect tense.
a. By the time we get married, we will have dated for 3 years.
(We started dating in 1999. We will get married in 2002. By 2002, we will have dated for 3 years.)
b. Monica and John are living in an apartment now. But they will have already bought a house by the time they have their first child.
(They don't have a child now, but they will in the future. By that time, they will have already bought a house. So the baby's first home will be their new house, not the apartment.)
- will + have + past participle
By the time you come home, I will have finished cooking dinner.
- will + not + have + past participle
We will not have finished our project by December 2002.
- will + subject + have + past participle
Will Sally have read 20 pages by 6 o'clock tonight?
Future Perfect Progressive
The future perfect progressive tense is used to describe an action that will be in progress before another future event. It is to emphasize the duration of the action, i.e. how long by another time in the future. Like all other progressives, the future perfect progressive indicates that the action will not be finished at that time. This tense is not commonly used.
1. By the time my daughter graduates from college, I will have been working at this company for 25 years.
(My daughter will graduate in the future. At that time, I will have worked for 25 years and I will continue to work.)
2. A: When did Theresa start acting in movies?
B: Let's see. She will have been acting for exactly one year next month, so she started in March of last year.
- will have been + verb-ing
By 2003, Dr. Garcia will have been doing research on cancer for 50 years.
Negative Statements (very rarely used):
- will not have been + verb-ing
Brian has quit smoking. By the time he sees his doctor, he will not have been smoking for a whole month!
- will + subject + have been +verb-ing
Will Jerry have been running for 4 hours by the time he crosses Golden Gate Bridge?