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Talking about the Future: other forms
Level: Level: Medium

Talking about the Future: other forms

Before reading this, you may want to learn about the normal future here. Now we will see other forms to talk about the future in English.



We use "Going To" to talk about what we are going to do next, or to tell people what they have to do next. In colloquial English we often use Gonna (with or without To Be)

      - OK, I'm going to put a video, we're going to listen to it and then you're going to tell me what happened in the story.
      - Are you gonna come with us? You gonna get lost if you don't. Come on, we're gonna call a taxi before it's too late, come with us.



The verb WILL very often expresses volition (it means WANT). In fact, in old English “will” meant “want” (the word “want” arrived into the language later). When you see WILL, it is a good idea to think that it probably means “want”, but if it makes no sense, then it is a future.

In this sense we use WILL to make invitations and requests:

    Will you come to my party? (invitation) = do you want to come?
    Will you open the door for me, please? (request) = do you want to open...?
student hand up


For the same reason, the negative is often used meaning “refuse” (= not want)

    I invited him to the party but he won't come
    I've asked John to help me but he won't
    The car won't start
    Don't try to convince me. I won't go
    This door won't open




We use this to talk about something that is going to happen very very soon, an imminent future.

    Don't approach the car. The bomb is about to explode
    I'm about to finish (= I will finish in a moment)
    A new war is about to start in the Middle East
    I hope we get to a petrol station in time. The tank is about to be empty



This is a very formal and official way to express future. We never use it when talking, but we can find it in newspaper news (especially headlines), notices and official announcements. It is also used to impose an obligation.

    The Queen is to inaugurate a new bridge tomorrow
    You are to finish this by two o'clock
    Our constitution establishes that the king is to marry a blue-blooded girl
    He is to go immediately

In places where you need to be very short, it is common to drop To Be and use only the infinitive:

   IKEA to open here May 2nd (= will open)
   President Obama to make important announcement at 6 (= will make)

(you should understand this construction if you find it, but it is probably a good idea not to use it)




In the past, WILL and SHALL were both used to talk about the future but today SHALL is not normally used except to add some special meaning. It often sounds old-fashioned or very formal.

Emphatic: We use SHALL to emphasize a prediction or a promise.

    I shall be rich one day (this sounds like a stronger prediction than "I will be rich one day")
    I shall give you a new bike for your birthday if you pass your exams
(a strong promise)
    Don't be afraid, I shall always stay with you
(a strong promise)

We use SHALL to express obligation (similar to MUST but more formal and emphatic)

   You shall listen to me when I'm talking!
   You shall not kill, says the Lord your God

   The hirer shall be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle (in a contract)


An archaic form for the future. It is common in Bible texts, poetry, old literature, etc.

   "I never shall forget, I never can forget, that my mother was warm for my being sent back" (Charles Dickens)
   And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season (Bible, KJV)
   Shall I compare thee to a summer day? (Shakespear, thee = you)
   And death shall have no dominion (modern poem by Dylan Thomas)

  SHALL is still used today normally (not formal or old-fashioned) in three situations:

1- For offerings (when we offer to do something for somebody (always SHALL I):
   That box looks very heavy. Shall I help you? (= Do you want me to help you?)
   Shall I tell your mother you are here?

2- For suggestions (always SHALL WE):
   Shall we go to the cinema? (= let's go...)
   Shall we have another drink?

3- To ask for advice (always SHALL I):
   Shall I wear the red dress or the green one? (= what do you think?)
   Oh no, this is terrible! What shall I do?



It is formed with WILL HAVE + Past Participle and it is used in the same way as the Present Perfect but the time reference is not the present moment, but a future time. This tense is not very common so don’t worry too much about it.

      I've been here for two days  (present perfect)
      Next Tuesday I'll have been here for six days  (future perfect)


It is used in the same way as the Present Continuous but the time reference is not the present moment, but a future time. This tense is not very common either, so don’t worry about it much.

    I'm lying on the beach  (present continuous)
    Next week I'll be lying on the beach  (future continuous)


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