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Talking About the Future, Part 2: The Perfect and Continuous Futures

In my last post on this subject, we looked at ways to use present tense and simple future tense to talk about the future. Now we’re going to look at perfect and continuous grammar forms. (Recall that past and present tense also have perfect and continuous forms.)


Future Perfect

Form: Will + have + past form of a verb. The past form of a verb is usually verb+ed, except in the case of irregular verbs, which may have other past forms. (Will have given, will have slept, will have finished, etc…)


Use 1: Use future perfect when you want to say that an action will be completed at a specific time in the future. For instance, if you think you will be done studying for the TOEFL at the end of next month, you would say “I will have finished studying for the TOEFL at the end of next month.” See below for a few more examples.

EXAMPLES: He will have slept for five hours when his alarm clock goes off at 5am. The next time you see me, I will have finished my summer courses. In America, a president will have ruled for eight years by the time he finishes his second term and must leave office.


Future Perfect Continuous

Form: Will + have been + verb + ing. (Will have been thinking, will have been driving, etc..)

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Use 1: Use future perfect continuous to predict that an action will still be in progress at a specific time in the future. You must also describe how long the action will have taken at that point in the future.

For example, suppose you will not be finished studying for the TOEFL by the end of next month (next month = specific time in the future). However, by the end of next month, you will be finished with six weeks of TOEFL study, even though you’re not finished with all of your TOEFL study (six weeks= how long the action will have taken at that point in the future).

In this case, you could say “I will have been studying for the TOEFL for six weeks at the end of next month.” This means that once you get to the end of next month, you have studied for six weeks, and you are continuing to study more.

This is somewhat like Use 1 of future perfect above. The difference is that future perfect is used to say that something will be finished at a specific point in the future. Future perfect continuous is used to describe something that will still be happening at a specific future time.

EXAMPLES: He will have been sleeping for five hours by 5am, and he’ll probably keep sleeping until at least 7am. The next time you see me, I will have been taking my summer courses for a few weeks. In America, a president will have been ruling for four years by the time he gets elected to a second term.

Future Continuous

Form: Will + be + verb + ing. (Will be running, will be trying, and so on.)


Use 1: Describing a future event. This pretty much the same as Use 1 of Simple future, as seen in the previous post on “future talk”.

EXAMPLES: I will be arriving to work late tomorrow because I need to take my son to the doctor first. I will be seeing you next week.

Use 2: Predicting an event that will still be in progress in the future. This is kind of like Use 1 of future perfect continuous, but much simpler. In future perfect continuous, you need to specify the future point in time and the duration of the future event. However, in future perfect, saying an event will be in progress in the future is the only thing you need to do. You can state specific times and specific durations of events, but you don’t have to.

EXAMPLES: When you get to their house, they will be cooking dinner. On Sunday, I will be playing video games for a few hours. My father works very hard right now, but soon he will be enjoying his retirement.

My students usually have a lot of questions about future tenses, especially these three more complicated forms. I will be answering any questions you have after you read this. Just post your questions in the comments section below, or ask me through Google Plus. I’m here to help!

In  my next post on this subject, I’ll make some Magoosh Comics that show the 6 tenses and 13 uses connected to the future. I’ll also give you a review worksheet so you can practice using the future tenses yourself.

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4 Responses to Talking About the Future, Part 2: The Perfect and Continuous Futures

  1. Edward Binder December 10, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    I just want to sincerely thank you for having the Tenses’ explanations on your site. I am an ESL teacher and I have been trying to find a way to explain the correct use of the tenses to my Asian students, and yours is the first site that actually makes sense to me, because you give all of the possible ways to use each tense. I am now in the process of creating a simplified version that has all the variations, with more simplified explanations attached to the,

    Thanks again,
    Edward Binder

    • David Recine December 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

      Hi Edward,

      Thanks for your kind words. I actually originally created the Magoosh tense guides for a group of East Asian university students, before adapting them for this TOEFL prep blog. My method for teaching tenses is based on the approach taken in The ELT Grammar Book, by Richard Firsten. You may want to check that out too– great resource!

  2. Laura March 16, 2020 at 1:45 pm #

    Excelent Excelent Excelent!! I love this website.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 20, 2020 at 12:52 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Laura! We’re glad it was helpful. 🙂

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