Future Forms

When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.”

Oprah Winfrey, an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist

In English there are many ways to talk about future: “I will talk”, “I’m going to talk”, “I’m talking”, “I’ll have talked”, “I’ll have been talking”, etc. Are you sure you know how to use all of these constructions? Read on to check your knowledge…

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Form Meaning / use Example
Future Simple

will + V

  • spontaneous decision
  • general prediction, giving an opinion (often with I believe/think/hope etc.)
  • offer or willingness
  • request
  • firm intention, promise
  • threat
  • future fact
  • very formal arrangements
  • Someone is knocking. – I’ll open.
  • I bet we’ll still live here in 10 years’ time. It’ll be John (I think it must be him).
  • I’ll help you if you want me to. I’ll do the dishes.
  • Will you help me, please?
  • I’ll always love you.
  • I’ll kill you!
  • My birthday will fall on Monday this year.
  • Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the issue of identity cards.
am/is/are + going to + V
  • intention, plan
  • prediction based on present evidence (often about the immediate future; it often has an element of warning)
  • I’m going to finish my essay this week.
  • You’re not looking where you’re going. You’re going to walk into the wall!
Future Continuous

will be + Ving

  • plan made in the past
  • event that is part of a routine
  • prediction of an action in progress
  • description of something we believe is the case  now
  • I can’t give a class next Monday because I’ll be returning from the conference.
  • I’ll be going by subway as usual.
  • By next September the economy will be growing. This time next Friday I’ll be lying on the beach.
  • Don’t interrupt her now. She’ll be getting ready for the performance (I think she’s getting ready).
Present Continuous

am/is/are + Ving

  • arrangement, often with tonight, this weekend, at 4, etc; use the Present Continuous to talk about the near future
  • I’m having my health checkup today.
am/is/are + to + V
  • official arrangement, especially when announced
  • event in the if clause which is dependent on the event in the main clause
  • formal commands and instructions

(the verb be is often omitted in headlines: President to hold official reception)

  • The Prime Minister is to visit the Memorial Hall.
  • If professional sport is to improve, more money will be necessary (if we want professional sport to improve, more money will be necessary).
  • You are not to disturb the CEO now. These pills are not to be taken with any other form of medicine.
shall + V (shall not = shan’t)

(with I and we)

  • suggestion
  • offer
  •  asking for advice
  • determination (in a formal context)

(the use of shall with I and we in the future simple is becoming dated and is rare now)

  • Shall we dance? (let’s dance)
  • Shall I shut the door? (do you want me to shut the door?)
  • What shall I do? (what do you advise me to do?)
  • I shall not underestimate the difficulties that face us in the task.
Present Simple
  • an event that is part of a timetable
  • after certain time expressions (e.g. when, as soon as, until)
  • The train leaves in 5 minutes.
  • I will call you when I am home.
would + V
  • reporting predictions in the past, often with I believed, I hoped, etc.
  • I thought it would be OK.

FUTURE PERFECT SIMPLE & CONTINUOUS

Use the Future Perfect to make predictions about actions which you expect to be completed before a particular time in the future. A time adverb/phrase is usually used with this kind of predictions (e.g. soon, by then, within the next month):

He’ll have had the operation by June and should be much fitter then.

I’ll have finished the report by Friday. You’ll have a printout by lunchtime.

When I finish this book, it means I will have read all of his books.

Use the Future Perfect Continuous to talk about an action with will be in progress at a point in the future (the focus is on the duration of the action):

By 2040, people will have been using mobile phones for over 500 years.

We’ll have been living in this town for 25 years in October.

With verbs such as live, work, stay, which contain the idea of continuity, we can also use the Future Perfect:

We’ll have been living in this town for 25 years in October. = We’ll have lived in this town for 25 years in October.

pexels-photo-220570

Only time will tell (proverb)

DUE TO

Use due to for timetabled events:

Work on its renewal is due to start now, with the completed project ready in 2022.

We use the Present Simple for events that are part of a timetable too. But the Present Simple suggests that the event is totally fixed, while due to suggests possible change.

ABOUT TO, ON THE POINT OF & ON THE VERGE OF 

Use about to to talk about an event we plan or expect to happen in the near future:

Please take your seats. The show is about to start.

They’re about to leave without us! – No way!

On the point of and on the verge of are also about the near future:

I’m on the point of losing my temper! Stay away!

The species is on the verge of extinction / on the verge of dying out.

LIKELY / UNLIKELY, SURE / BOUND / CERTAIN

Use be likely/unlikely to + V to say that something in the future is probable/improbable:

The treatment is likely to take a few months.

They are unlikely to win.

Be sure/bound/certain to + V has a similar meaning, but there is more certainty in these expressions:

He’s sure to get the job. He’s the best fit for it.

Sarah is bound to be late. She is always late.

The policy is certain to change. It just doesn’t work the way it is.