Future verb tenses: introduction

There are a number of different ways of referring to the future in English. It is important to remember that we are expressing more than simply the time of the action or event. Future tenses will always refer to a time ‘later than now’, but it may also express our attitude to the future event.

All of the following ideas can be expressed using different tenses:

  • Simple prediction
  • Arrangements
  • Plans and intentions
  • Time-tabled events
  • Prediction based on present evidence
  • Willingness
  • An action in progress in the future
  • An action or event that is a matter of routine
  • Obligation
  • An action or event that will take place immediately or very soon
  • Projecting ourselves into the future and looking back at a completed action.

The example sentences below correspond to the ideas above:

  • There will be snow in many areas tomorrow.
  • I’m meeting Jim at the airport.
  • We’re going to spend the summer abroad.
  • The plane takes off at 3 a.m.
  • I think it’s going to rain!
  • We’ll give you a lift to the cinema.
  • This time next week I’ll be sun-bathing.
  • h. You’ll be seeing John in the office tomorrow, won’t you?
  • You are to travel directly to London.
  • The train is about to leave.
  • A month from now he will have finished all his exams.

You can see from these examples that several tenses are used to express the future. The sections that follow show the form and function of each of these tenses.

  • Simple future
  • Present continuous for future events
  • Simple present for future events
  • Future with ‘going to’
  • Future continuous
  • Future perfect
  • Future perfect continuous
  • Other forms of the future