The simple future tense is a verb tense that is used to refer to the future. This tense is commonly formed with the use of will and shall for an activity that takes place in the future. Besides these two auxiliary verbs, there are other ways that can be used to show simple future tense as shown here.
Will / Shall
Will/shall + base form of the main verb
Will and shall are auxiliary verbs used mainly in the future tense. They are followed by the base form of a main verb. Shall has always been used in place of will for the first person singular (I) and plural (we) but will is more commonly used.
- I will call you.
- We shall have a discussion in three days’ time.
- I shall arrive before noon. / They will arrive before noon.
- I shall be away tomorrow. / We shall be away tomorrow.
Both will and shall have their contracted forms in ‘ll, and the contracted negative forms are won’t and shan’t.
- I’ll be free for a week. / I won’t be free for a week.
- We’ll talk about it now. / We shan’t talk about it now.
The negative form is not repeated if it appears again with another main verb.
- No: I won’t talk to her and won’t ask her about it.
- Yes: I won’t talk to her or ask her about it.
Won't and shan’t are used to show unwillingness or refusal to do something.
- I have asked the noisy children to keep quiet, but they won't listen.
- I shan’t make any payment until I receive all the goods.
The followings show the different ways that can be used to express the future in English.
- Going to
- Be to
- Be about to
- Simple Present tense
- Present continuous tense
Will is used to refer to the future in the following ways:
say something that is certain to occur in the future.
- A meeting will be held next Monday at 2 p.m.
- I will be at the clinic tomorrow.
say something that is not so certain to happen.
make a prediction.
state a fact.
- Oil will float on water.
- Widening the road will improve traffic flow.
express willingness to do something in the future.
- I will help you clear the rat-infested storeroom tomorrow.
- We will spend our holiday decorating the flat.
make a sudden decision at the moment of speaking.
- There's a noise outside. I will just go and check.
- I will make some tea.
give a command.
- You will report to the Manager at eight o'clock tomorrow.
- The notice says all visitors shall leave the park by 8 p.m.
give an invitation, make an order or a threat.
- They will invite Professor Dunce to speak at the scientific conference.
- I will have a double brandy.
- Give me your wallet or I will slit your throat with this.
make a suggestion or promise.
- If you like, we will meet here after you finish shopping.
- I can assure you that it won’t happen again.
- Shall we all go together in one car?
create a conditional situation where something must happen in order for something else to happen.
- If you come along with me, I will buy you an ice cream.
- It will bite if you touch it.
ask a question.
- Will you look after my things for a while, please? (Ask a favour of someone)
- Shall I give you a lift to the airport? (Ask a first-person question)
- Will you phone your mother-in-law about the invitation?
- Shall we sneak a couple of bottles of brandy through Customs?
- Be going to
Be going to + base form of main verb.
Intention, decision, plans or arrangements already made to do or not to do something for the near future prior to the time of speaking.
- We are going to the zoo on Sunday.
- We are going to move to a new neighbourhood next month.
- We are not going to look for wild mushrooms this weekend.
Prediction of an outcome based on current situation.
- Look at the overcast sky. It is going to rain hard.
When be going to and will are used to make predictions, they mean the same.
- He thinks his son's team will win the match.
- He thinks his son's team is going to win the match.
Be going to and will are used to describe future situations or actions, and they often convey the same meaning.
- My son is going to be ten next month.
- My son will be ten next month.
- We are going to leave as soon as he arrives.
- We will leave as soon as he arrives.
- We are going to get something at the corner shop when it stops raining.
- We will get something at the corner shop when it stops raining.
When the speaker is absolutely sure about something, he can use will or be going to.
- I will be at the meeting tomorrow.
- I am going to be at the meeting tomorrow.
- I will probably be at the meeting tomorrow.
- I am probably going to be at the meeting tomorrow.
Sometimes be going to and will express different meanings.
Be going to is used to indicate a plan made before the time of speaking while will expresses a decision made at the time of speaking.
- Better: It is getting late. We will leave now.
(The speaker decides to leave the moment he realizes it is getting late - a sudden decision.)
- Instead of: It is getting late. We are going to leave now.
(This sounds like you are making a plan to leave now.)
When a decision or plan is made for the distant future, will is usually used, while going to is usually used when a plan is made for the near future.
- She will get married in two years.
- We are going to get married next month.
We use be going to when there is an intention to do something and will for additional information.
- It's their twentieth wedding anniversary. They are going to have a celebratory party. (NOT: They will have a celebratory party.) They will invite about a dozen close friends. The friends will include two politicians.
- Be to
Be to (= is to/are to) + base form of main verb.
Be to refers to an action that is to take place in the future, such as an obligation, arrangement, information, duty, instruction. However, other forms of usage are possible.
- You are to hand this packet over to him before noon. (Obligation)
- The Prime Minister is to meet his successor tomorrow. (Arrangement)
- The museum is to be closed for renovation. (Information)
- The General Manager is to present the report to the board on Monday. (Duty)
- You are not to answer any questions from any one of the reporters. (Instruction)
Be about to + base form of main verb
- Be about to
Be about to is used for an action or event that will happen very soon.
- Everyone sits down when the film is about to start.
- I have never stolen anything in my life, and I am not about to start now.
- We walked quickly home when it was about to rain.
- The audience fell silent when the President was about to appear.
- When a plane is moved to the end of a runway, it usually means it is about to take off.
When be about to is used with just, it emphasizes that something was about to happen in the past when it was interrupted by something else, also in the past.
- I was just about to eat my dinner when the phone rang.
- The workers were just about to leave their workplace when the fire started.
5. Simple present tense
The simple present tense is used for the future when we refer to something that has been scheduled or arranged to happen at a particular time such as a timetable.
- The first flight to Rome leaves at 6 a.m.
- The train for Birmingham departs from platform 3.
- The special sales offer ends on August 31.
- The new airport opens on Christmas Eve.
- The public exhibition of a collection of his paintings closes in a week.
Simple present tense and present continuous tense
Both the simple present and the present continuous tenses can be used to refer to the future.
- They have a barbecue for the whole family on Sunday.
(The simple present tense indicates the barbecue occurs every Sunday.)
- They are having a barbecue for the whole family on Sunday.
(The present continuous tense indicates a barbecue next Sunday; perhaps, not every Sunday.)
6. Present continuous tense
The present continuous tense is used for future arrangements.
- I am having a poker game with them at seven o'clock.
- She is flying to London tomorrow morning.
- John is leaving the company next week after 15 years' service.
- We are visiting the Niagara Falls in three weeks.
- My brother is writing another religious book next month.
The present continuous tense is used in questions about future plans.
- When is your family leaving for Antarctica?
- Are you starting your pottery class this weekend?What are you doing this weekend?
Present continuous and be going to
Present continuous tense and be going to can have the same meaning as used here to describe actions that are planned or arranged for the future prior to the time of speaking. Will is not used here.
- I am going to watch my favourite TV programme this evening.
- I am watching my favourite TV programme this evening.
- He is going to attend a seminar tomorrow.
- He is attending a seminar tomorrow.
Not be going to with go
It is incorrect to construct a sentence with be going to with the verb go. Use the present continuous tense instead as it is correctly and more commonly used.
- No: They are going to go fishing this weekend.
- Yes: They are going fishing this weekend.