Listen to this lesson (English audio, MP3)
What do you think of this audio recording?
There is a common belief that the only way to express the future in English is to use the two little modal auxiliaries "will" and "shall". Sure they play a major part in this function but there are other ways too of expressing the future. Below you will see 6 ways of expressing the future. I won''t call it the "future tense" because that restricts your thinking about how to talk or write about something that is not now
This way you can express a personal intention or make a prediction about what you know/feel/see as in these sentences:
I am going to stop smoking this year. The sea is going to be very rough this afternoon, so don''t go swimming.
Back to "will" and "shall". With these two words plus the infinitive of a verb you can express: a future fact, a sudden decision, an offer, a threat, a promise, an opinion about the future, a probability especially after think, suppose, expect, doubt if.
Here are a few examples:
Tomorrow will be my birthday
It''s all right I''ll get the shopping
I will take you in the car if you like
I''ll stand by you whatever happens
I suppose we''ll manage without the car
This is almost the same as "going to" but it''s not quite as personal. Look at this:
The Government is thinking about introducing a new law.
We use this when we are thinking of the certain future, something already arranged as in a timetable or programme:
Your train leaves in ten minutes.
These are used to express an instruction or something arranged officially. Here is an example:
The finance ministers are to meet next month to discuss the crisis.
We use these when we want to describe actions that are expected to happen, usually fairly soon. An example:
The 100 metre race is about to start any minute now.
Below you can see a story I''ve written using some highlighted examples of how you can express the future.
I want you to imagine that you are about to
visit a small village. It doesn''t matter which country it''s in because all villages are the same whichever part of the world they are in. There were only about 300 inhabitants in total in this particular village and everyone knew everybody''s business. A typical street conversation would run like this: "I hear Joan''s going to
have a baby next year. I expect it''ll
be a boy this time I wouldn''t be surprised. She''s having
a nurse come next week to help her with her 5 girls and maybe a boy will make
life easier for her!" In this village people usually help each other whenever they can. If someone is going to the "big" town that is where there are more than a thousand people living in it invariably they will say
to their neighbours: "I''ll get
you some vegetables, if you like". But it''s not all sweetness and light here because there is a longstanding feud going on between two families. I''ll let
the local gossip, Mary tell you the background. "It must be ten years ago when it all started. I doubt it''ll
ever stop", she laughed when she said that. "But then I''ve been told I am to tell
you the beginning of it all and also you are to listen
, remember. There are two women who are always arguing about something. One of them lives in that huge house over there. Don''t look now because she''ll open
her front door in a minute. She''s going to
catch the 9.15 bus that goes
in ten minutes from that stop there. Now, she''s a fine lady, she is. She''s due to
become a councillor next month after the elections and she''ll
probably make a good job of it. Now hold on a second the other lady is leaving
her house in a minute. Yes, what did I say? She''s going to
catch the bus too but she''ll get
on at the next stop to avoid meeting the councillor lady. Now the second lady runs a small restaurant, as a matter of fact I''m taking
lunch there later today." I asked Mary why these two women didn''t get on. She looked me straight in the eye and said: "Jealousy. One runs a successful restaurant and the councillor lady runs a small guesthouse. Both of them are going to
make a lot of money this year because of the festival but the guesthouse lady will make
more and she always has done and that''s the cause of the trouble."
Now what I haven''t told you", continued Mary, "and I''m just about to
reveal it, is that there are two other people in the story. Namely the son of one of the ladies and the daughter of the other. And yes, they are getting married
next year and the whole village will be invited
. It''s going to be
a big affair" I interrupted Mary at this point and asked her what had happened to the feud. "Oh that doesn''t matter much now" continued Mary "they''ll be
too busy making arrangements for the wedding. They''re due to
meet a catering firm this morning". "So what''s all this about separate bus stops?" I asked. "Oh, that''s just for the tourists who are coming
here next month." I tried to understand but had one more question: "And what about jealousy?" "Now, you''re not to
worry about her. There are plenty of villages round here and she''ll
another one to visit and cause trouble in" I thanked Mary and walked away, totally confused thinking to myself; "I shall never understand
Dear Friend, if you have any questions or comments regarding this article, please click here
If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
please post them on this English Grammar Forum.