Basic English Tenses: The Future

We’ve learned by now that there are precisely four ways each in the English language to express the present and past. To describe things and actions that will happen in the future, started in the present and end in the future or began in the past and continue in the future, we can also use four (or six – more about this later) different ways. 

And just as for all the other English tenses, there are, again, certain “signal words” that help you to find out which form of the future tense you ought to use. 

Future Simple I + II (“will” & “going to”)

The “Future Simple” is the primary form of future tenses in English. You usually use it for predictions, thoughts, and decisions about the future. Depending on the certainty of the action or event, you’ll have to choose between the “will” and “going to” form of this tense. 

It’s formed by the subject + auxiliary “will” + main verb or the subject + auxiliary “going to” + main verb.

This is the only future tense where you have to choose between “will” and “going to.”

  • Statement: You will look fabulous in that dress.
  • Negative Statement: She will not/won’t talk to him.
  • Question: Will you listen to them?
  • Statement: He is going to eat an apple.
  • Negative Statement: He isn’t going to buy some milk.
  • Question: Is he going to tell her?

Uses (“will”):

1) Opinions, hopes, or assumptions for the future

  • They’ll probably come back tomorrow.
  • I think he’ll arrive at 5 pm.
  • He hopes that she will have the presentation ready by tomorrow.
  • We guess that it will stop raining in the afternoon.
  • Who do you think will get the job?

2) Promises

  • I will do my homework this evening.
  • He will look after his sister.
  • They promise they will clean up the kitchen.

3) Actions in the future that cannot be influenced

  • It will probably rain tomorrow.
  • We won’t be able to go hiking today due to the heavy snowfall last night.
  • She’s got the flu, so won’t be able to go to school tomorrow.

4) Spontaneous Decisions

  • Please wait for a second. I’ll get a pen and paper. 
  • She’ll maybe cook dinner for us tonight.
  • I’ll go and grab a cup of coffee for us.

Signal Words:

  • in a year, next Saturday, tomorrow, …
  • I think, guess, assume
  • probably, perhaps
  • Hold on, Wait (for spontaneous decisions)

Uses (“going to”):

1) Decisions or planned actions/events in the future

  • I’m going to leave for work now.
  • She’s going to have her car tires changed this afternoon.
  • They are going to go to the homecoming dance this weekend.

2) Conclusions regarding the immediate future (logical consequences)

  • The train still hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to be late for work.
  • The sky is so dark outside. It’s going to rain anytime soon.
  • He’s already starving. He’s going to make himself a sandwich right after he finished this task.

Signal Words:

  • yesterday, next… (week, year, etc.)
  • I’m sure/certain

Future Continuoues / Future Progressive 

You use the Future Continuous / Past Progressive to describe an action/event that will be in progress at a specific time in the future. But you also use it for future actions and events that will happen because they tend to occur on a regular basis. It is formed using will be + infinitive verb form + the ending “ing.”

  • Statement: I will be participating.
  • Negative Statement: They won’t be listening to him.
  • Question: Will he be studying for the test?

Uses:

1) Actions that will be in progress in the future or have already begun and continued in the future

  • I’ll be working from 8 am until 5 pm tomorrow.
  • They’ll be studying for the exam together after school.
  • She’ll be leaving for her dance classes after dinner. 

2) Future actions that tend to have happened regularly in the past

  • I’ll be leaving for the office at 8 am on workdays.
  • She’ll be having a glass of red wine after dinner as usual.
  • They’ll be rehearsing like on every other Tuesday.

Signal Words:

  • yesterday, next… (week, year, etc.)

Future Perfect 

The Future Perfect is used for actions and events that will already have happened before a certain time in the future. Or let’s say you can use it for actions and events that will be finished at a specific time in the future.

It is formed with will + have + past participle of the main verb.

  • Statement: I will have finished my homework by tomorrow.
  • Negative Statement: They won’t have finished it this evening.
  • Question: Will we have completed this by next week?

Uses:

1) Actions that will already have happened before a specific time in the future

  • Will we have found a solution to this problem by next week?
  • They will have finished their tasks when you arrive.
  • The dog will have peed on the floor again by the time his owner comes back from work.

Signal Words:

  • by tomorrow, Monday, etc.
  • in a week, year, etc.

💡 You can also use “shall” instead of “will,” especially for “I” and “we”

Future Perfect Continuous / Future Perfect Progressive 

The “Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive” is an English tense that you most probably use quite seldom. It’s used for actions and events that will have already began and continue in the future, with a strong focus on the course of the action itself. Yes, we know that sounds complicated, but you’ll understand it a little better once you’ve seen the examples. It is formed with will + have + been + infinitive verb form + the ending “ing.”

  • Statement: I will have been talking.
  • Negative Statement: We won’t have been talking.
  • Question: Will you have been talking?

Uses:

1) Actions that will already have happened before a specific time in the future

  • She’ll have been having a severe hangover if she continues drinking all night long. 
  • You will have been cleaning up the kitchen, won’t you?
  • He won’t have been driving for long.

2) To emphasize the length or course of an action

  • He’ll have been playing with the computer for six hours.
  • They’ll have been studying for two weeks when they start today.
  • I will have been telling her for a week now that she has to start working on her assignment, but she just won’t listen.

Signal Words:

  • for days, weeks, etc.
  • the last couple of hours, days,…
  • all-day/night long