The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Inflection (Accidence) > Conjugation > Tense > Future Tense (Approximation) > Future Continuous Tense
Future Continuous Tense
The future continuous tense (also known as the future progressive) is used to describe an unfinished action occurring in the future. This action can either begin in the future, or it can already be in progress in the present and continue into the future.
As with all so-called future tenses, English verbs do not inflect into a unique “future form”—rather, we must use auxiliaries and participles in other tenses to describe future events or actions.
To form the future continuous, we use will be or is/are going to be + the present participle of the main verb.
- “I will be running 10 miles tomorrow.”
- “He is going to be leaving the company soon.”
Much of the time, either construction may be used with no appreciable difference in the meaning of the sentence. However, as with the future simple tense, we sometimes use the will be construction for actions or events that are more certain to happen, whereas the going to be construction can be used to imply an intended action or event.
Using the future continuous tense
The future continuous is primarily used in three ways:
- 1. To say that something will be in progress from a certain moment in the future.
- 2. To predict that something will be in progress at some point in the future (i.e., not starting at a specific time).
- 3. To describe something that is expected or predicted to continue happening from the present for an uncertain amount of time into the future.
Let’s look at examples of each of these uses.
From a certain point in the future
In this usage, we describe something that will definitely be happening in the future—that is, it is not a prediction or an expectation. Because it is a certainty, we often reference specific points in time.
- “This is your captain speaking; the plane will be landing in 10 minutes.” (It will begin to land starting 10 minutes from now.)
- “Please make your way to checkout counters, as the store will be closing in five minutes.” (In five minutes’ time, the store will begin to close.)
- “I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be arriving in Milan on Saturday.” (The action of arriving will begin on Saturday.)
We can also use nonspecific references in time, so long as they are not too vague or too far in the future. For instance:
- “I need to get this report finished, as the boss is going to be leaving shortly.”
The progressive future action is going to begin happening (it is not a prediction), but the time frame is not exact.
We can see, however, that this can easily turn into a prediction when we use more vague time references:
- “We will be buying our own house soon.”
- “Our kids are going to be leaving for college eventually.”
Predictions of future actions
The future continuous is often used to predict actions that we think or presume will be happening at an uncertain or generic point in the future:
- “Don’t call Paul after 7 PM; he’ll be having dinner.”
- “In 10 years, people are going to be consuming even more natural resources.” (Even though a specific time is referenced, it is far enough in the future that we can assume this isn’t a certainty.)
- “By the time we arrive home, they’ll be sleeping.”
In progress now and into the future
We can also use the future continuous to predict that an event or action is currently happening, and that it will continue for an uncertain amount of time into the future. For example:
- “Don’t call the house now, as John will be sleeping.” (We predict this to be in progress now, and that it will continue to be happening in the near future.)
If we want to describe something that is definitely happening now and will (or is expected to) continue to happen in the future, we use the adverb still after will or before going. For instance:
- “I’m so behind on this assignment. The sun is going to rise and I will still be working on it.”
- “No matter who is elected, we’re still going to be dealing with the effects of the recession for years to come.”
Types of sentences
So far, we’ve looked at examples of positive sentences using the future continuous tense. As with the other tenses, we can also form negative, interrogative, and negative-interrogative sentences.
We form the negative of the future continuous by adding not after will or before going in the sentence. (Will and not are often contracted to won’t.)
We form the negative to achieve the opposite meaning of all the uses we’ve looked at so far. For example:
- “Contrary to our previous announcement, the store will not be closing in five minutes.” (negative certainty of a future action)
- “Don’t bother trying to get a hold of Paul after 7; he won’t be taking calls then.” (negative prediction of a future action)
- “I may be behind on this assignment, but I am not going to be working past 5 o’clock.” (negative intention of allowing a current action to progress into the future)
Interrogative sentences (questions)
We create questions in the future continuous by inverting will or be with the subject. This is also the case if we use question words—what, where, when, etc. (An exception is the word who, which becomes the subject of the sentence but remains at the beginning.)
We most often use interrogative sentences in the future continuous tense to politely inquire about information:
- “Will you be joining us after dinner?”
- “What will they be doing in Mexico?”
- “Who is going to be performing at the concert?”
Negative interrogative sentences
Negative interrogative sentences also ask a question, but they imply that the speaker expects the answer to be (or believes the answer should be) “yes.” Again, in the future continuous, this is done to create a polite inquiry.
We form these by using the interrogative form we looked at above, and adding the word not after the subject. However, this is considered a formal construction—more often in modern English, will and the forms of be are contracted with not to create won’t, isn’t, or aren’t, all of which come before the subject:
- “Will you not be joining us after dinner?” (more formal, but less common)
- “Won’t we be leaving after the concert?” (less formal, but more common)
- “Is he not going to be studying for an exam?” (more formal, sometimes used for emphasis)
- “Aren’t you going to be working next week?” (less formal, but more commonly used)
We do not use question words with negative interrogative sentences in the future continuous tense.