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Simple Future Tense

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Introduction

The future simple tense expresses that an action will happen at some future moment. The future simple tense can be used to talk about future events, make predictions, declare one’s intentions, and state a spontaneous decision.

The future simple tense is not the only way to talk about a future action. A somewhat less formal way is to use an am going to construction (e.g., I am going to walk five miles).

Form

To form the future simple tense, use will or shall and the base of the verb:

We will wash your car.

They will finish their homework.

I shall keep my promise.

Note that shall is more common in British English and is used primarily in the first person (I, we). For more info, check out our separate discussion of shall.

As mentioned, in some instances you can also form the future with am going to:

We are going to see the play.

I am going to read that book.

You are going to clean your room!

They are going to tour Ireland.

In general, using will expresses greater certainty. However, there is a lot of overlap. The am going to construction is typically used for planned and predetermined events, for indicating one’s intentions, for making predictions, and for ordering people around. In most cases, the use of am going to is closely tied to some knowledge or evidence drawn from the present moment.

Negative Form

The negative form simply adds not. 

We will not accept your demands.

You won’t believe this!

Note that the verb won’t is a contraction of will not.

Asking Questions

Use the regular form to ask questions:

Will you visit?

Shall I make a cup of tea?

In this case shall is clearly preferred when speaking in the first person (I, we).

Uses

Future Actions

She will meet you at the airport.

We will be glad to host you.

Spontaneous Actions

I will do the dishes.

We will do it right now.

Intentions / Promises

I will write the report.

You will never walk alone.

Predictions

The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup this year.

He will crash his car before the year is out.

Tricky Cases

One of the most confusing things about verbs has to do with dependent clauses. If your native language is not English, you may sometimes be tempted to use the future simple when the present simple tense will do.

This applies especially to some sentences where the main clause contains the future simple tense and the dependent clause does not. Let’s review these cases.

References to Time

When a clause starts with a reference to time (before, after, when, as soon as, etc.), you often need to use the present simple instead of the future simple:

Incorrect: After we will milk the cows, we will have breakfast.

Correct: After we milk the cows, we will have breakfast.

Conditional Statements

In some if statements you may not need to use the future simple tense:

Awkward: I will buy your guitar, if you will teach me some simple chords.

Better: I will buy your guitar, if you teach me some simple chords.

Even though the action of teaching will take place in the future, we tend to use the present simple. One way to think about it is to consider that from the perspective of the moment when the action of buying takes place, the act of teaching is simultaneous (and thus present). Another explanation is that hypothetical statements like this have a timeless quality to them. Either way, the present simple  is better.

That Clauses

Here’s one more example where the dependent clause does not necessarily need the future simple tense:

Incorrect: I will talk to that girl that you will want to go out with.

Correct: I will talk to that girl that you want to go out with.

Here too the present simple tense is preferred.

More Information

For more information, please see our introduction to all twelve verb tenses in English.