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Use of tenses: Talking about the future

There are several ways of talking about the future.

The future simple (will + infinitive) is used:

■ to talk about a decision that you make as you are speaking:
  • ‘It’s cold in here.’ ‘OK, I’ll close the window.’
  • I’ll have the salad, please.

■ to talk about what you know or think will happen in the future (but not about your own intentions or plans):
  • Her mother will be ninety next week.
  • Will he pass the exam, do you think?
  • This job won’t take long.

■ for requests, promises and offers:
  • Will you buy some bread on your way home?
  • We’ll be back early, don’t worry.
  • I’ll help you with your homework.

However, other tenses and expressions are also used to express a ‘future’ idea.

The present progressive is used:

■ to talk about future plans where the time is mentioned:
  • He’s flying to Japan in August.
  • What are you doing this evening?
  • I’m not starting my new job till next Monday.

Be going to with the infinitive is used:

■ to talk about what you intend to do in the future:
  • I’m going to phone Michael tonight.
  • What are you going to do when you leave school?

About to with the infinitive is used:

■ to talk about the very near future:
  • Go and ask him quickly. He’s about to go out.

The present simple is used:

■ to refer to a future time after when, as soon as, before, until, etc.:
  • Ring me as soon as you hear any news.
  • I’ll look after Jo until you get back.
  • You’ll recognize the street when you see it.

■ to talk about future plans where something has been officially arranged, for example on a timetable or programme:
  • We leave Palma at 10 and arrive in Luton at 12.30.
  • School starts on 9 September.

The future progressive is used:

■ to talk about actions that will continue for a period of time in the future:
  • I’ll be waiting near the ticket office.
  • I’ll be wearing a green hat.
  • This time next week you’ll be relaxing in the sun!

■ to ask somebody about their plans or intentions:
  • How many nights will you be staying?
  • Will you be flying back or going by train?

The future perfect or the future perfect progressive is used:

■ to talk about the duration of something that you will be looking back on at a particular time in the future:
  • They’ll have lived here for four years in May.
  • She’ll have been working here for a year in October.

© Oxford University Press
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