In our newest Quick English video lesson, we teach a very important subject: how to use the future tense in English.
Why is this so important? The future tense is one of the 3 basic tenses in English (the other 2 are the past tense and the present tense). In every part of life, we use the future tense to look forward. We can talk about our plans for the future (our life, our travel, our career). We use it in Business English, to predict what will happen, or to discuss projects. Exams like IELTS, FCE or CAE contain the future tense in English all the time. English speakers use the future tense in politics, in sport, in culture….the list goes on!
The Future Tense in English: A Quick English guide
In the video, we show you how to use this tense in simple and advanced ways.
If you are an Elementary English student, you can learn the basic information.
If you have an Intermediate English level, you can learn new ways to talk about the future.
Lastly, Advanced learners of English can understand why and how to use all the different forms of the future tense, becoming a fluent, accurate communicator.
There is a lot of information in the video, so you can find more information about the future tense by clicking the buttons below the video. When you watch the video, it’s a good idea to pause (stop) the video every now and again, to take in the information and the examples you see.
So, if you’re ready, press Play and enjoy!
Will, going to & the present continuous ("ing")
The 3 most basic ways to use the future tense are will, going to and the present continuous (with an “ing” verb).
Future tense in English: will
We use “will” in 2 different situations:
- To express a thought about the future. This can be an idea, like Emre (in our video) saying “I think I’ll stay in bed tomorrow.” If you want to talk about the future with words like “probably” or “maybe”, will is the correct form to use.
- To make a prediction. A great example of this is the weather: “It will be sunny tomorrow”. We can also use this to make predictions in business: “Sales will rise next year.” Maybe we’re not certain about the event, but we’re expressing our thoughts about it.
Using WILL is quite simple: you just need to use the verb without changing it after the word “will”. (Often, will becomes ‘ll in informal English) We don’t use the verb with “to”. Here are some examples:
“I will stay in bed tomorrow.”
“Will you write to me soon?” [question]
“He’ll be home soon.”
“She won’t have dinner with us tonight.” [negative]
Future tense in English: going to
Going to is useful when we want to talk about plans for the future. It’s more than an idea: maybe you had the idea in the past, and now it has become a plan. You are quite sure that this event will happen, and you use going to so you can express how sure you are.
It doesn’t need to be a plan, however. If you are confident about something in the future, going to is the best way to express it. For example, “It’s going to rain tomorrow.” (This is a common sentence in a country like the UK!) A mother, angry with her child, might say “I’m going to kill him.”
USING GOING TO is not as easy as will. First, we need the verb to be in the present tense (“I am”; “you are”; “he is”; “she is”…) After this, we use the words going to (or “gonna” in spoken English). Lastly, we use the verb without changing it. Here are some examples:
“I’m going to wait for you over there.”
“You are going to take your exam tomorrow.”
“Is he going to study tonight?” [question]
“She is going to meet her friends.”
“We aren’t going to see them tonight.” [negative]
Future tense in English: the present continuous
The present continuous seems to be a strange way to talk about the future, but it does exist! In fact, it’s quite common. We use it when we are 100% certain about an event in the future. We often like to think of it this way: if you have tickets for an airplane, you say “I’m flying.”
Using the present continuous is very similar to using going to. We need the verb to be in the present tense (“I am”; “you are”…) and the verb with ing. Here are some examples:
“I am doing an interview tomorrow at 9.”
“When are you meeting her?” [question] “He is singing in the concert tonight.”
“She isn’t calling him back.” [negative]
Future tense in English: a free quiz
We have a free online exercise where you can practice these 3 future tense forms. Why not try it? Click on the picture below to begin!
After you have understood the 3 basic forms of the future tense (will, going to and the present continuous), it’s time to get more advanced! Click on one of the forms below to learn more about it.
Could, might, may & the 1st conditional
We used will, going to and the present continuous to talk about events we were more or less sure about in the future. What if we don’t know about a future event? We can use words like probably or maybe and that’s fine. Or, we can use simple modal verbs to describe these events.
Could, might and maybe
In other situations, these 3 words can mean different things. (For example “I could speak English yesterday” describes the past. “You may go home” gives permission.) In the future tense, they have more or less the same meaning: I don’t know if this will happen, but it’s possible.
Using could, might and maybe can be quite simple. We use them with another verb and we don’t change that verb or use any other words. Here are some examples:
“I might go to the beach tomorrow.”
“It could rain.”
“She might not come home.” [negative]
The 1st conditional
A conditional sentence is a sentence which contains “if”. In the 1st conditional sentence, we’re imagining an event in the future. This event is very possible, and we want to talk about what will happen after this event.
To talk about the event we use (strangely) the present simple tense. For example, “If I go out tonight…”
To talk about what will happen after this event, we use will: “If I go out tonight, I will be tired tomorrow.”
The 1st conditional is important for Intermediate level of English and above. There is also the Zero conditional, the Second conditional and the Third Conditional. (But these are for another lesson!)
Would like to, should and hope
Another way to describe the future tense in English is to talk about our feelings about the future. We do this in 3 ways:
Future tense in English: would like to
We use would like to all the time, to describe our wants and desires. We especially use this form when we’re being polite in English. It is technically a future-tense form, because we’re talking about our desire for future events. Look at these examples:
“I would like to go home soon.”
“She would like to go to Spain next summer.”
“They would like to stay.”
Future tense in English: should
“Should” is another modal verb which usually has a different meaning, not related to the future. We usually say “should” to give advice, describing a good idea. (For example: “You should study.”)
When used in the future tense, should expresses our expectations of the future. We don’t know that this event will happen, but we have a strong feeling that it will.
In this situation, it helps to imagine that you are waiting for the bus. The schedule says that the bus will arrive in 10 minutes, but you can’t be 100% sure that this will happen. So, you can use should: “The bus should arrive in 10 minutes.”
Future tense in English: hope
Hope is a strange word, especially when we use it. It is beautiful, too: we use it to describe our desires about the future, even if the future is uncertain. However, we must use the present tense in a sentence with this word. Look at these examples:
“I hope my team wins tomorrow.”
“I hope you stay a little while longer.”
“She hopes the test goes well.”
It is not necessary to use these 3 forms of the future tense. Like we said in our video, you can just use will, going to and the present continuous if you like.
However, Advanced English speakers know how to use all of the different forms of the present tense. Click below and we’ll show you even more: the difficult future perfect form.
The future perfect form
Now for the most advanced form of the future tense. We mentioned it in the video, but it takes some time to explain. It’s the future perfect form.
Let’s look at the sentence Emre used in the future tense:
“By Sunday, I will have had a relaxing weekend.”
Remember that Emre looks to to the future from Friday. For him, it is Friday, and he is looking to a fixed point in the future (Sunday).
He cannot say, in the present perfect tense, “I have had a relaxing weekend.” He will be able to say this on Sunday, however.
Therefore, right now (on Friday) he is predicting a future event after it has happened.
The present perfect sentence “I have had a relaxing weekend” then become the future perfect: “I will have had a relaxing weekend.”
Take a look at these examples of the future perfect tense:
“By 2019, Donald Trump will have been president for 2 years.” (He became president in 2017)
“By summer next year, I will have graduated from university.” (I’m in my last year of university right now)
“By the time I finish work this evening, I will have sent 100 emails.” (I’m in work at the moment, sending lots of emails.)
…Or click on the picture below to download it, keep it; study the grammar, and use it!