In English, the future tense is more flexible than the past or present tenses. What I mean by “flexible” is that there are many more ways to describe the future, compared to the past and present. You can describe the future with six different tenses instead of four. And there are 13 total uses for the tenses that describe future. The future is so flexible in English that you can even use two forms of the present tense to describe it.
All this flexibility is great. But it also means that mastering “future talk” is a bit more complicated than mastering “present talk” or “past talk” in English. So we’re going to study the future tense in three posts instead of just one. In this first post, we’ll look at the way that two present tenses and the simple future tense can be used to describe the future. These three tenses are listed below, with description of their grammar forms and uses.
Form: Use a form of “to be” (am, is, are) + verb + ing. (Am doing, is thinking, are trying, and so on.)
Use 1: An action planned in the near future
EXAMPLES: The science fair is happening in the school auditorium this weekend. I am seeing the new movie this weekend.
Use 2: An expected future event. This is an event that is not necessarily planned by the speaker or writer, but is still something they expect will happen. While Use 1 of present continuous only deals with the near future, Use 2 can deal with events that will happen in near or distant future.
EXAMPLES: I think the research team is finishing its work sometime this evening. Some scientists believe the polar ice caps are melting completely within the next hundred years.
Form: Just use the base form of the verb, adding an “s” if the subject before the verb is singular. (They leave, the woman leaves, and so on.)
Use 1: A scheduled future event. This is very similar to Use 1 of present continuous above. The difference is that Use 1 of present continuous usually describes events in the near future. Simple present can describe events in the near future or events that will happen a very long time from now.)
EXAMPLES: The wedding is next Monday. The millennium ends in the year 2999.
Form: Use will + the base form of the verb. (They will run, she will run, etc…)
Use 1: A future event.
EXAMPLE: I will see you tomorrow.
Use 2: A prediction of what may happen in the future.
EXAMPLE: My grandfather thinks it will rain soon.
Use 3: A promise of future action
EXAMPLE: I will finish cleaning my room before I go to bed tonight.
Use 4: A request for future action
EXAMPLE: Will you give me the financial report before you go home today?
Use 5: A threat to do something bad in the near future
EXAMPLE: If you bother me again, I will complain to your boss.
Use 6: Describing an event that happens often, and will probably happen again in the future. (This one really describes actions that happen again and again, past present and future, and is not strictly a future form. Because it’s a little different from other uses of simple future, I’ll give you several examples.)
EXAMPLES: In Korea and Japan, it will always rain a lot in the summer. She loves comic books, so she will talk a lot if you ask her about comics. The car will need an oil change every four months. I will usually take a shower in the morning.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the remaining three future tenses: future perfect, future perfect continuous, and future continuous.
I’ve found that students will always have a lot of questions about future tenses. If you have any questions about this post, don’t be shy! Ask your questions in the comment field below, or talk to me at my Google Plus page.
Ready for Part 2? Click here to learn about the Perfect and Continuous Futures.