It is important to know that English people do not use tenses only to talk about time. Tenses in English describe when something happens. But they also tell you what the person who is talking thinks about what is happening.
In English there are many ways to talk about the future. For example, we can use any of these kinds of grammar when we talk about the future - the present simple, the present continuous, the simple future, the future continuous, the future perfect, the future perfect continuous, or even (cover your eyes!) the future perfect passive continuous. Which of these different kinds of grammar we use depends on what idea we want to give about how we see the future.
We are going to look at the six most common ways of talking about the future.
Simple futures are most often used as declarations about the future:
'I will be home at six o'clock.'
'He will do that tomorrow'
'It will be dark soon'
Simple futures use 'will' plus the infinitive without 'to'. They often have a temporal indicator. (six o'clock, tomorrow, soon). Mostly simple futures are used when the other five ways of talking about the future cannot be used, but if you look at the intermediate and advanced sections, you will see that there are other uses for the simple future as well.
Arranged futures are futures that you have planned, usually with another person.
'I'm seeing George for dinner next week.'
'My parents are coming to see me at Easter'
'Fred is taking Mary to the cinema on Saturday'
Arranged futures use the present continuous; because the future started to happen as soon as you made the plans (or had the idea of what you wanted to do), and will only stop happening once your plan is finished. Temporal indicators (Next week, Easter, Saturday) are even more important, because the temporal indicator lets us know the event it is not happening now.
Mike is doing his exams (now!)
Mike is doing his exams in December. (not now)
These are statements made about the future from what we know now.
'It's going to be a beautiful day' (The sky is blue, it is warm, and the weatherman says it will stay like this)
'I'm going to be late' (It takes me 20 minutes to get there, and I have only got five minutes left)
'He's going to crash' (He's going too fast, he's a terrible driver, and the road stops here)
We can also use a predicted future to say what we want to do.
'I'm going to sleep for a while'
'I'm going to have some more tea'
Remember that when we use 'going to' (intention) together with 'going to' (movement) we normally use them as just one phrase.
'We're going to Greece for our holiday this year'
Not: - We're going to go to Greece for our holiday this year
Predicted futures usually use 'going to' followed by the verb (in the infinitive) of what you think will happen.
These are when you imagine something in the future, and describe it.
'This time next week, I'll be lying on a beach in Tuscany'
'We'll be having a party next week, do you want to come?'
'If you need me, I'll be waiting upstairs'
Because the described future uses 'will', we know that it is about the future, so a temporal indicator is not necessary. The tense is the future continuous, so it uses 'will be' and a present participle. (an -ing word)
These are also sometimes called timetable futures. They are for events that are going to happen at a particular time in the future. They usually describe things which the speaker can't change.
'Christmas is on a Wednesday this year'
'The taxi comes in five minutes'
'The play ends at 10.15'
Fixed futures use the present tense, and may not always have a temporal indicator.
This is when you jump into the future in your imagination, and look back at the 'past'.
'I will have finished that by next week.'
'In June we will have lived here for three years.'
When you finish this, you will have read all the examples in this unit.
The future in the past uses the future perfect - that is, 'will have' and a past participle (the 'third part' of a verb). It usually has two parts - the future temporal indicator, and what will happen between the temporal indicator and the real present.
In a few seconds you will have finished reading this description of the future tense. Next you will do some exercises. Do you think you are going to do well? The new exercises are coming up now. They come after you press the blue arrow. Soon you will be doing them. Good luck!
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