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The Main 5 Tenses Part 3: The Future Simple and Present Continuous (again...).

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

In the last part of this series on the main 5 tenses, we are looking at the Future Simple and the Present Continuous (again). Both of these tenses are used to talk about future plans and predictions. Part 1 of the series is here, and Part 2 of the series is here.


Let’s start here by thinking about what we actually need future tenses for.

  • To express plans and intentions for the future.

  • To say where we will be at certain times in the future.

  • To set goals for the future.

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Present Continuous


What’s this… a present tense in the future tenses? Yes, but it’s used for future plans that are known in the moment, so If you were to ask me what I am going to do this weekend, I could well answer something like “I’m going to collect my daughter from the kindergarten at 3pm and then we are going to go to buy an ice cream”… basically, these two actions are already planned. Like all plans, they might not happen, but then nothing in the future can be predicted with 100% certainty.


to be + present participle.

I’m moving to Spain in the Summer.


to be + going to + infinitive.

I’m going to visit my parents in the Summer.


Positive form:

  • We are going to start looking for a new HR manager at the end of the month.

  • I’m going to send you all the documents when I get back to the office.


Negative form:

  • I’m not going to go to the office tomorrow, so I need to finish everything today.

  • He’s not meeting the client this afternoon anymore, so he can probably answer your email before the end of the day.


Question form:

  • Are you going to the team meeting tomorrow? I’m not I don’t think.

  • Are they actually closing the main factory?


Exercise:

  • Name three things that you have planned this week, month and year.

i.e, “I am going to start a new business” or “I am meeting friends on Friday”.

  • Name three things that you certainly not going to do this week, month or year.

i.e, “I’m not going to wear a mask in the supermarket” or “I’m not going on holiday this year”.



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The Future Simple


The future simple can be used in the same way as the present continuous – “this Friday I will pick up my daughter from the Kita at 3pm and we will buy an ice cream”. It sounds a little formal to me though, so I find the present continuous version a lot more natural.


We use the Future Simple more to predict future actions/states, or to emphasise that that a plan is a promise to do something.


You also need to use the future simple if you are expressing that you have spontaneously decided do something, and want to make it clear that you had not planned the action beforehand – “I’m sorry, I just spilt wine on your jacket, I will dry clean it for you”. Obviously in this case, using the Present Continuous could sound like you had planned it.


Positive form:

  • I’ll respond as soon as I can. (there is a slight emphasis here that this is a promise).

  • He’ll be back later. (this is a predication).


Negative form:

  • I won’t be able to get everything finished on time I’m afraid.

  • We won’t start work until the 23rd September now.


Question form:

  • Will you send me the report when you are finished?

  • Will they be in the office on Monday?


Exercise:

  • Think of three unexpected situations (for example, a missed train, and accidently broken glass or an unexpected phone call in a meeting that you want to answer). Give a spontaneous answer to each.

i.e. “sorry, I will just answer this call quickly, it’s my long lost cousin”.


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Understand the theory, but want some more practice using these tenses in real life? - message me on joel.white.english@gmail.com to discuss having personalised English lessons.


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