I haven’t had the time to create my own mind maps, however I have made good use of the excellent resources available from my creative fellow teachers to help me with my posts.
And today is no exception. During my research for this post, I came across this wonderful mind map created by Blog Educativo. I think it shows very clearly the different uses of the future tenses in English.
I will give an example sentence for each use as illustrated in the mind map. In addition to these tenses we also have the future perfect (I will have done) and future perfect continuous (progressive) (I will have been doing) tenses. More of that in a later post.
We use will + the infinitive (without to). Will is usually shortened in speech and informal writing to ‘ll.
- We will go to the cinema tomorrow.
- I’ll pick you up at 8am.
- We won’t get there on time.
Questions and short answers:
- Will you be long? No, I won’t.
- Won’t you need an umbrella? Yes, I’ll need one.
Prediction and state facts
“Over the next decade there will be a big increase in the use of nuclear power”.
Spontaneous decisions and thoughts that come into our head at the moment of speaking (resolution)
“I’ll have the fish, please”
“Tell him I’ll call him in the morning.”
“I’ll give you a hand with the report tomorrow. Don’t worry”.
Offering to help
“I’ll give you a lift to the station later“.
Certainty about something working or not working
“The car won’t start“.
BE GOING TO
Be + going to + infinitive
- I am going to go to the shops tomorrow
- I’m going to buy a lottery ticket
- I’m not going to go out today.
Questions and short answers:
- Aren’t you going to go and welcome your guests? Yes, I am.
- Are we going to see your parents later? No, we are not/aren’t.
Predictions based on present evidence
“Be careful! The glass is going to fall.”
(I can see it on the edge of the table)
Intentions – these are things that we have already decided to do
“I’m going to call her in the morning”.
“She’s going to monitor the situation closely”.
WILL or BE GOING TO?
There are many occasions when we can use either form. Will is more used in writing whilst be going to is more usual in speech. Native speakers of English use more be going to than will. Here are some examples:
“I’ll talk/ I’m going to talk about three main areas in my presentation…..”
(Here the speaker could see it as a fact (will) or an intention (going to)
Decisions – instant or already made?
- “Great idea! I’ll do it first thing tomorrow” (instant)
- “Yes, I know. I’m going to do it tomorrow (intention or plan)
Predictions – general beliefs about the future or with present evidence?
- “I’m sure you’ll love the movie” (general belief or opinion)
- “This year we’re going to make a profit for the first time in five years.” (I have the figures in front of me – present evidence)
We use the present continuous to talk about things that we have arranged to do. There is nearly always a future time expression. The arrangements are often social arrangements or appointments.
NB: I don’t agree entirely with the mind map above in terms of its example uses “planned actions” and “near future”. I would substitute the word “actions” with “arrangements” and add the word “fixed” to it.
A planned, fixed arrangement could be next week or next year, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be “near future”.
- I’m seeing my dentist on 4 July.
- I’m going on on holiday in September.
- HSBC are moving offices next year.
BE GOING TO or PRESENT CONTINUOUS?
For plans and arrangements there is often very little difference, however be going to often suggests that the arrangements are still open (not fixed), while the present continuous can suggest that the arrangement is fixed.
- I’m going to see my lawyer next month –
(just a plan – time and place unknown)
- I’m seeing my lawyer next month in London
(a definite arrangement with place confirmed)
PRESENT SIMPLE for FUTURE
We use the present simple tense (not WILL) to refer to the future in the following situations
Using some time expressions
We use the present simple (or present perfect) for future after these words:
when, after, before, unless, in case, as soon as, until, by the time, the next time
- When Sally arrives, I will tell her to come and see you.
- We’ll talk about the budget plans as soon as I return from Munich.
- Unless I am mistaken, there won’t be a meeting next week.
- You can wait here until she arrives.
Note that WILL is used in the second part of the sentence in the first three sentences.
Fixed Timetables and schedules
We can use present simple or the present continuous to talk about events in the future based on a timetable or calendar.
- My plane leaves (is leaving) at 1.20pm.
- Our CEO retires (is retiring) in December.
- I have a meeting with the Sales team tomorrow at 4pm.
To really get a better understanding of how to use the future tenses correctly you need to see them in context. Reading in English is one of the best ways for you to really get a feel of how the tenses are used and in what context. I cannot stress enough how important it is to see the language in context.
So read as much as you can. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as you do.
And that’s it! I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.
Ciao for now
Source: Business Grammar Builder, Paul Emmerson (2010) Macmillan