The Future Tense: ‘will’ vs. ‘going to’

1. What is the future tense?

The future tense is used to talk about actions that will happen in the future.

There are two main structures that can be used for the future tense:

  • x + will + verb (+ future time)
  • x + (be) going to + verb (+ future time)

*Note: the future time can be dropped if people know what time is being referred to, or for talking about the future generally.

2. Will vs. (be) going to

‘Will’ and ‘(be) going to’ are used for different future ideas:

will(be) going to
Decided right nowPlans
100% sureEvidence

3. Will – predictions

Predictions are what you guess will happen in the future.

Predictions can take will + verb.

VerbFuture tense
(will + verb)
Example sentence
bewill beIn 5 years, I think Shanghai will be the biggest city in the world.
winwill winBrazil will win the World Cup.
comewill comeMaybe she will come to the party, maybe she won’t.

4. Will – decided right now

Use will for future actions decided now.
The actions might happen later, but the decision to do them is made now.

VerbFuture tense
(will + verb)
Example sentence
drivewill driveYou need to go to the airport? I will drive you.
getwill getI’m hungry. I think I’ll get a sandwich.
talkwill talkDon’t worry, I will talk to him.

5. Will – 100% sure

Use ‘will’ if you are 100% sure something will happen in the future.

VerbFuture tense
(will + verb)
Example sentence
rainwill rainIt will rain tomorrow.
fallwill fallIf you drop a ball, it will fall.
startwill startThe meeting will start at 3pm.

6. Will – think/hope/know

Use ‘will’ if talking about the future and using phrases such as ‘I think’, ‘I hope’ or ‘I know’.

VerbFuture tense
(will + verb)
Example sentence
getwill getI hope I will get a good job.
passwill passCarlos believes he will pass his exams.
bewill beShe knows you will be a good husband. that is why she is marrying you.

7. Going to – predictions

Predictions are what you guess will happen in the future.

Predictions can use ‘going to’ as well as ‘will’.

VerbFuture tense
(be going to + verb)
Example sentence
becomeis going to becomeHe thinks she is going to become a doctor.
resignis going to resignThey think she is going to resign next week.
beis going to beI think Shanghai is going to be the biggest city in the world.

8. Going to – plans

Use ‘going to’ if you are talking about plans you have made.

VerbFuture tense
(be going to + verb)
Example sentences
goam going to goTomorrow I’m going to go to the hospital and visit my friend.
visitis going to visitSusie is going to visit Japan for my holiday.
stayis going to stayAima is going to stay in bed until midday tomorrow.

9. Going to – evidence

Use ‘going to’ if you have evidence of a future event.
Evidence could be something like a weather forecast, or something is always true.

EvidenceVerbFuture tense
(be going to + verb)
Example sentence
the wind is strong and the door is openslamis going to slamThat door is going to slam.
the glass in on the edge of the table and his arm is going to hit itfallis going to fallCareful. That glass is going to fall.
the weather forecast told mebeis going to beTomorrow is going to be sunny, so we lets head to the beach.

10. Exception 1: the present continuous tense

It is not always necessary to use the future tense to talk about the future.

The present continuous tense (be …ing) is used for plans that have already been made.

VerbPresent continuous tense
(be …ing)
Example sentence
stay(am/is/are) stayingTomorrow night I’m staying at a small hotel on the beach.
go(am/is/are) goingWe’re going to grandma’s, and on the way we’re stopping at grandpa’s.
read(am/is/are) readingNext term the Grade 1s are reading a new book: Ulysses.
have(am/is/are) havingQarshe is having a party on Wednesday, if you want to come.

11. Exception 2: the present continuous tense

The simple present tense is used for events that are planned and cannot be changed.

VerbPresent tense
(subject + basic form)
Example sentence
playwe playWe play football on Monday, so you can see him then.
meethe meetsHe meets Willow tomorrow morning to talk about the contract.
goI goYour party is on Tuesday? I’m sorry, I go to Japan on Monday.
bedinner isDinner is at 6, so don’t be late.

12. Exercises

1. Talk about the future using each of the methods to use ‘will’ and ‘going to’.

2. Use ‘going to’ to talk about your plans for:
(i) this weekend
(ii) tonight
(iii) the next year

3. Use the present continuous tense for any scheduled plans you have made for the next week.

4. Use the present simple for any plans that you have that cannot be changed.There are different ways to talk about the future