The future tense

In English there are a few different ways to form the future. I find most English learners often use ‘will’ when native speakers will more frequently use the present continuous as the future or the ‘going to’ form.

Here’s how and when you use them:

Present continuous (as the future)

The present continuous is used to talk about fixed arrangements in the future. All you need to do is to add a future time reference to make it different from a current action.

e.g. I am meeting my friend at the cinema tomorrow evening.

This means that you have agreed this arrangement with your friend so the meeting is fixed.

Going to

The form ‘going to’ is used when want to talk about a plan or intention in the future. It is something that you plan or intend to do but it is not yet fixed as an arrangement.

e.g. I’m going to book my ticket to Spain at the weekend.

Here, you plan to do this so you could say you are around 80% sure this will happen as that’s what you want to do.

We can also use ‘going to’ as a prediction.

e.g. My team are playing well, I think they’re going to win.

As they are playing well then you predict that they will win.

Will

With ‘will’ it can be used in a few different ways. Think a bit more carefully when you use this form as more often than not native speakers would use the present continuous or ‘going to’ form.

A promise

When you want to make a promise to someone then you would always use ‘will’.

e.g. I will pay you back tomorrow!

Instant decision

If you decide something in a specific moment, say for example when ordering at a restaurant then ‘will’ is used.

e.g. I will have the pasta, please.

For emphasis

If you want to make a stronger statement to emphasize what you mean then use ‘will’ in this case too.

e.g. I will do my homework, I’m not a bad student!

Prediction

As with ‘going to’ you can also use ‘will’ when making a prediction.

e.g. You will love this film!

Shall

Typically ‘shall’ is used in a question form to express a suggestion or an offer. Although it can also be used in a more formal sense in statements. It is typically only used with the subjects ‘I’ and ‘we’.

Offer

e.g. Shall I carry your bag for you?

Suggestion

e.g. Shall we order a takeaway tonight?

Formal statement

e.g. We shall remember the fallen heroes.

I hope this gives you a better idea of how to use the future. We also have an 8-minute English podcast episode you can listen to: