The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Inflection (Accidence) > Conjugation > Tense > Future Tense (Approximation)
Future Tense (Approximation)
What is the future tense?
Grammatically speaking, there are no future tenses in the English language; verbs do not inflect (conjugate) a certain way to reflect future actions. There are really only aspects of the future tense—that is, ways of expressing the future using other grammatical elements and constructions.
To talk about other future events or actions, we use different sentence constructions to achieve a future point of view. This is most often accomplished by using the modal auxiliary verb will or the verb phrase be going to. These constructions make up what are commonly referred to as the future tenses.
The future simple tense is used in a few different ways to describe things that have not happened yet—it can be used to predict something, to make promises, to describe a future fact, to describe unplanned actions, or to offer to do something.
The simplest way we create the future simple tense is by using will/be going to + the base form (the infinitive without to) of the main verb of the sentence. For example:
- “I will walk to work.”
- “The president will be in Portland tomorrow.”
- “Don’t worry, I’m going to pay for the coffee.”
- “I am going to drive to work tomorrow, if you want a ride.”
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. We can also use the future continuous tense to make predictions about an action we think will still be happening in the future.
To form the future continuous, we usually use will/be going to + the auxiliary verb be + the present participle of the main verb. For example:
- “I will be running 10 miles tomorrow.”
- “This is your captain speaking; the plane will be landing in 10 minutes.”
- “We are going to be buying our own house soon.”
- “They’ll be sleeping by the time we return home.”
- “In 10 years, people are going to be consuming even more natural resources.”
We use the future perfect tense to say that something will finish or complete at a specific point in the future. We also often include durations of time to indicate how long something has been happening once a future moment in time is reached.
In addition, we can use the future perfect tense to make a present prediction about something that we believe has or should have happened in the past.
The most common way we create the future perfect tense is by using will + have + the past participle of the verb. For example:
- “This June, I will have lived in New York for four years.”
- “You will have heard by now that the company is going bankrupt.”
- “She’ll have slept for the whole day if she doesn’t get up soon!”
(We can also use be going to instead of will, but this construction is less common and cannot be used to make a present prediction about a past action.)
Like the future perfect tense, we use the future perfect continuous tense (also known as the future perfect progressive tense) to indicate how long something has been happening once a future moment in time is reached, emphasizing the continuous nature of the action. It can also be used in this way to indicate the cause of a possible future result.
The most common way we create the future perfect continuous tense is by using will + have been + the present participle of the verb. For example:
- “By June, I will have been living in New York for four years.”
- “She’s going to miss half the day because she’ll have been sleeping for so long!”
- “By the time I get there, she will have been waiting for over an hour.”
- “I will have been working on this ranch for more than half my life when I turn 40.”
- “I’m not going to have any energy to play with the kids because I’ll have been working so hard this week.”
(Like the future perfect tense, we can also use be going to instead of will, but this construction is less common.)
In addition to will and be going to, the modal verb shall can also be used to form each of the future tenses. Although will is generally preferred in modern English (especially American English), using shall adds an additional degree of politeness or formality to the sentence sometimes lacking with will or be going to.