Unit 41: VERBS & FUTURE TIME
English does not have a future tense. We can use:be going to (Unit 37)
present continuous (Unit 22) OR will (or shall) (Unit 31)
present simple (Unit 19)
Which one do you use?
Personal plans and intentions
You are deciding now: use will or shall
I think I'll visit my uncle tomorrow.
I think I will take the exam next summer.
Just a minute and I'll get him for you.
You have already decided, but you have not arranged anything yet: use be going to
I'm going to visit my uncle tomorrow.
"Did you hear that?" asked the teacher. "Tomorrow we're going to have a little test."
He is going to take the exam next summer.
You have made arrangements. Now it is not just your intention - you have done something about it: use present continuous
I'm visiting my uncle tomorrow.
Your uncle knows this - perhaps he has made plans to welcome you.
The teacher says we're having a test tomorrow.
The teacher has made a plan - a student cannot change it.
He is taking the exam this summer.
He has entered his name for it and paid the exam fee.
NOTICE: Present continuous is a polite way to refuse an invitation because it shows that you cannot accept (not that you don't want to accept!).
I'm afraid I can't come tomorrow. I'm visiting my uncle.
What is your opinion about the future?
General: use will or shall
Do you think they'll win the game?
The world's population will likely reach 9.2 billion in 2050.
This time tomorrow, I'll be relaxing on the beach.
Because of the present situation use be going to
If they play like that for the whole game, they're going to lose.
It's cold! And look at the sky! I think it's going to snow.
We need 20 minutes to finish, but there's only 10 minutes left. We're not going to have time.
Because of a fixed arrangement which cannot change: use present simple
My plane leaves at six this evening.
This is the timetable.
The sun rises tomorrow at 6:32.
Because of the time of year.
The course begins next week.
I'll see him today.
This is an intention - you are deciding now.
I'll be seeing him today.
This is a prediction - and it is probably arranged.
NOTICE: The future is never certain. We often use the modal verbs could, may, might (Units 29-30) and also should (Unit 33) to show how possible we think something is.