This is a lesson about how to use the future forms together. It is part of a complete B2 English grammar course. There is a presentation version of this lesson in the “Materials” tab above.
When we talk about the future, we use various different tenses and expressions, depending on the context and meaning;
These are not all interchangeable, they are not the same. Let’s have a look at when to use each form.
We don’t just use the present continuous to talk about things happening now, but also to talk about the future.
This isn’t very intuitive for non-native speakers, but it’s VERY common in English.
The present continuous is used for;
Plans and arrangements that are quite firm
“We are getting married in Las Vegas in July!”
Going to is a form that is really based in the present continuous.
We use the verb “to be” + “going to” + a verb to talk about;
Plans for the future
“Next week we are going to see our friends in Galicia.”
We also use going to to make predictions;
“It’s going to rain tonight.”
Plans with the present continuous are more concrete, more formalised or more fixed.
“This weekend we are going to go away somewhere, but we don’t know where.”
“We are getting married at the church on July 26th, we have made the reservations and printed the invites!”
In reality this difference is minimal these forms can often be used interchangeably.
We use will for a lot of things;
“I think that it will rain tonight, let’s stay in”
“I will cook tonight then, do you want chicken or fish?”
“Hmmm, fish or chicken. I’ll have the chicken please”
“I’ll wash up, I know I said that last time, but I promise I will tonight.”
“I will get home at 7 and put the chicken in the oven.”
The future continuous and future perfect are forms that we use to talk about things in progress at a moment in the future and things that will have finished before a future time.
“This time next year I’ll be living in Bermuda, I will have retired by then.”
There is a detailed description of the the future continuous and future perfect tenses with exercises here.
If we are using will to make suggestions or offers in the form of a question we use “shall”.
Shall can be considered to be a form of will that we use;
To offer to do something in a question form.
“Shall I open the window?”
(Only in the “I” and “we” forms, for logical reasons.)
To suggest something in a question form.
“Shall we have pizza tomorrow?”
As a formal synonym of will.
“I shall consider the matter.”
We can use the present simple for future facts, especially when they have a fixed timetable;
“Christmas Day this year is on a Monday.”
“Tomorrow’s class starts at 09:30 and finishes at 14:30.”
“My return flight next week is at midday.”
Sometimes there is no difference in meaning. For example, there is no difference between
“I think that Manchester United will win.”
“I think that Manchester United are going to win.”
However, when we are making a prediction about what is going to happen based on what we can see in that moment it is more natural to use going to than will.
“Look at how fast that car is going, he’s going to crash!”
|Plans||Predictions||Offers / promises / suggestions / Instant decisions / future facts||Future facts with a timetable|
|Will / shall||✓||✓|
Check that you have understood everything and practise these forms with the exercises below.