This lesson is in two parts. This first part demonstrates the various forms English uses to indicate the future. Page 2 examines the similarities and differences between the two primary forms:

  1. WILL
  2. Present progressive.

Before you continue, review these lessons:

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Many languages have a present tense, a past tense, and a future tense. These tenses are indicated by a specific set of verb conjugations.

English, however, has no future tense: there is no verb conjugation to indicate the future. But of course we can still talk about the future.

Future with WITH

One way is to use the modal auxiliary verb WILL + a main verb in its base form*. Here is an example.

subject modal verb main verb object
He will eat pizza

* The base form of a verb is the same as the infinitive but without the word tolearn more.

Near future

Many languages, besides using a future verb tense, also indicate the future by using the verb GO as a sort of auxiliary verb. English uses the present participle of the verb GO (going) which is preceded by a conjugated form of the verb BE and followed by an infinitive:

BE + going + infinitive

subj. auxiliary verbs main verb object
  BE going infinitive  
He is going to eat pizza.
They are going to take the train.
I am going to read my book.

Temporal adverbs

Another way to indicate the future is with a temporal adverb or expression (tomorrow, in two weeks, next month, etc.) With one of these, the future can be described using these four forms:

simple present + adverb
He leaves tomorrow.
They travel to Bogotá Friday.
I visit my sister next week.
WILL + verb
+ adverb
He will leave tomorrow.
They will travel to Bogotá Friday.
I will visit my sister next week.
present progressive
+ adverb
He is leaving tomorrow.
They are traveling to Bogotá Friday.
I am visiting my sister next week.
BE + going + infinitive
+ adverb
He is going to leave tomorrow.
They are going to travel to Bogotá Friday.
I am going to visit my sister next week.

Note: In order to use the present progressive to talk about a future action, you must include a temporal adverb or the present participle going. Without one of these, the present progressive creates an ambiguous sentence because there is no way to determine if the action is occurring now or if it will occur in the future.

To learn more about the differences and similarities between WILL and the present progressive when describing the future in English, go to page 2.

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