Futures – The forms we use


future forms graphic

In this post we’re going to talk about the future. There are lots of different ways to talk about the future in English so let’s start with the simplest and perhaps most typical forms first.


The most common way we use to talk about timetables is by using the present simple. Here are some examples.

  • The train leaves at 7:30.
  • The shop closes at 5:00.

Plans or arrangements

In this case the form we use most often is the present continuous as in our example. The idea of using the present continuous here is that this is something the person has already arranged or discussed.

  • I’m meeting my friend for dinner after work tomorrow.

Plans or Intentions

For this type of example we use the structure going to. It is similar to how we use the present continuous but the important difference here is that going to talks only about intentions. It is something that may or may not happen.

  • I’m going to join the gym in the New Year.

Prediction with going to

Another way we use going to is to predict the future by using information that we have now. You can see this clearly in our example sentence.

  • Look at those dark clouds coming, it’s going to rain.


The modal verb will has a number of uses to talk about the future.

Decision at the time of speaking

This is often the first form that people often learn about, where the speaker makes instant decisions.  Here are a couple of examples.  

  • I’m too tired now, so I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • A The washing machine is broken.
    B Ok I’ll call an electrician.

Promises and offers

We can use will to talk about many different situations. It is very common to use it to offer to do something for somebody or to promise to do something.

  • I’ll do the dinner, I know you’re busy.
  • I’ll give you the money back next week, for sure.


Like many other ways of talking about the future will predicts different ideas.

  • The weather will be cold and wet tomorrow.
  • People will live on the moon in 50 years.

People sometimes use going to in these types of examples and the meaning is the same.  

Other future forms

There are a number of other forms we use for the future which are more complex in how we construct them and how we use them.

Future Continuous

The future continuous works in the same way as other continuous tenses, where we are talking about something happening at a particular time. In this case we are referring to a future time and it is usual to include some kind of a time reference. Here’s an example sentence and there is also an image below describing how we use the future continuous.

  • This time next week I will be lying on the beach in the sun.
future continuous description

Future  perfect forms

The future perfect refers to completed activities or completed time but at a specific time in the future. These forms are not used very often as they are complex and we often prefer to use a simpler way to describe ideas.

Future Perfect Simple

This simple form of the future perfect refers to a completed activity some future time. We use certain kinds of time expressions to talk about this, such as by the end. The diagram below shows how we think about it. 

  • I will have completed this report by the end of the week.
future perfect simple description

Future Perfect Continuous

We use the future perfect continuous to talk about a completed period of time at a future date. We commonly use for and since for this type of grammar. This form is very uncommon and the diagram below shows how we look at it.

  • In two years I will have been working for this company for 20 years.
future perfect continuous description

There are many ways to talk about the future in English and these are the most common grammar forms we use. A lot of time we just use the first more familiar structures but it’s also good to know about future continuous and future perfect forms especially for exam exercises.