You’re about to learn 10 different ways to talk about the future in English. Also check out 17 Free English Lessons: Best of Clark and Miller 2017.
There are two main ways that we talk about the future: intentions and predictions.
What does this mean?
An intention is the “you-type future.” It comes from you. It’s something that you decide to do. It could be something big (like buying a house), or it could be something small (like answering the phone).
A prediction is the “outside-world type future.” It’s not about you. It’s about what you see around you. When you make a prediction, you usually have no control over the situation. You’re just watching.
First, let’s look at how intentions work.
An intention can be a big plan or a spontaneous decision.
There are three main ways we talk about intentions. It depends on how strong the plan is:
When we make a spontaneous decision, we use will.
I’ll answer the phone.
I’ll have the soup of the day, please.
When speaking, always contract:
I’ll = I will
I won’t = I will not
When we’re talking about a plan, we use am/is/are + going to.
I’m going to get some soy milk.
We’re going to have a picnic this weekend.
He’s gonna do some concerts next year.
gonna = going to
in informal spoken English
When our plan is especially strong, we use the present continuous tense.
I’m doing yoga with Stefan tomorrow at 7.
I’m travelling to New York via Chicago.
Wait! What’s the difference between a plan and a “strong” plan?
Sometimes both going to and continuous can be used. But if there are other people in the plan, we usually use continuous.
Compare these examples:
Other phrases for talking about intentions
Here are some other ways we can talk about intentions:
There are two main types of predictions: beliefs and facts.
Let’s look at two situations:
Why did the professor use will and Elon Musk use going to?
The professor can’t see anything that supports his prediction. He can only say what he believes.
Elon Musk can see the future: the cars are right behind him!
It’s not always so easy to decide whether to use will or going to. But don’t worry. Just ask yourself:
What helps you make your prediction: belief or fact?
Other phrases for talking about predictions
Here are other ways of talking about predictions.
This time it’s good to think about how sure you are about the prediction:
As you can see, English is much more dynamic than what you can put in a simple grammar table.
For each tense we learn in English, we need to know how to use it and the alternative phrases.
When you can do this, you’re on the way to mastering English grammar.
I’ll be covering more English grammar tenses in future posts. If you haven’t signed up already, click here to get email updates (and a free eBook, too!).