Expressing the Future

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Expressing the Future

There are many ways of expressing the future.

It is useful to know that, generally, to use one or another is not CORRECT or INCORRECT (as it may be in the past and perfect tenses) but usually more or less APPROPRIATE. In many cases it is a question of meaning, not grammar.

  1. WILL vs (be) GOING TO

The classic difference:

‘WILL’ literally means ‘voluntad’. Before someone dies, he or she leaves a ‘last will and testament.’ In the same way, a person can be ‘willing’ (dispuesto) to do something.

WILL is a subjective, personal view of the future. We can see this when people use:

Promises:                                            ‘I swear I won’t cheat again!’

Predictions or opinions:                                ‘I don’t think England will win the next World Cup*’

Instant decisions:                             ‘Where’s Mary?’ ‘I don’t know- I’ll phone her!*’ (It wasn’t planned)

WILL is also used when it depends on something (1st Conditional):

‘If I see him, I’ll invite him to the party*’

‘When I get home, I´ll call you*’

‘She won’t know unless you tell her*’

(For more information on this, look at the article on Conditionals.)

*In Spanish you often use the present tense in these cases


This is very similar to Spanish or other languages. Something that is GOING TO happen is quite certain, it has been planned, or there is enough evidence to be sure.

If you use ‘Voy/Va a..’ in Spanish, you can almost always use ‘(be) going to..’

“I’m walking/going to the shopping centre”

“What are you going to buy?”

“I´m going to buy a present for my brother.”

Exactly  the same as in your language! Let’s carry on the conversation with ‘Will’:

“What present are you going to get him?”

“If I find a History Atlas, I’ll get him that. I think he will like that..”

So, if I say:

“It’s going to rain tomorrow”                      I’ve seen the weather forecast and it says ‘95% Chance of rain’

“I think it will rain tomorrow”                      It’s dark and cloudy, and that’s my opinion.

“I’m sure I will see Sarah at the party”   She loves parties. It’s the most logical option.

“I´m going to see Sarah at the party”       She’s told me she’s going.

  1. WILL vs. MIGHT

Very easy! Look at this mathematical formula:

MIGHT (not) = WILL (or won’t) + Maybe

Foreign speakers often say:

“PERHAPS I WILL go to the cinema tomorrow”

It’s gramatically correct, but an English speaker would say:

“I MIGHT go to the cinema tomorrow”

  • This is an artificial argument. ‘(be) going to’ IS the present continuous. Let’s repeat the example:

    “I’m walking/going to the shopping centre”

    “What are you going to buy?”

    “I´m going to buy a present for my brother.”

    So when do we use the present continuous without ‘going to’? The easy solution: If it’s OK in your language, it’s OK in English:

    “Van a venir mis primos este fin de semana” (OK)

    “Vienen mis primos este fin de semana” (OK)

    “Veo a Arsenal este sábado” (NO)

    “Voy a ver a Arsenal este sábado” (OK)

    Remember: In English, Subject before Verb:

    “My cousins are going to come this weekend” (OK)

    “My cousins are coming this weekend” (OK)

    “I’m seeing Arsenal this Saturday” (NO)

    “I’m going to see Arsenal this Saturday” (OK)

    In the same way, it is gramatically correct, but not very common or necessary to say ‘I’m going to go..’


    This follows the basic difference between these two tenses. (If you need more information about Present Simple vs. Continuous, click here).

    PRESENT SIMPLE =                           IN GENERAL

    PRESENT CONTINUOUS =             NOW OR IN THE FUTURE (ahora o pronto)

    You can use present simple for things that happen every day and so logically apply to the future. This is most common with public transport, timetables, etc.

    “They’re going on holiday next week. Their plane leaves on Monday at 10:15.”


    There are some specific phrases to express certain ideas about the future. There is a mini-class that refers to these. Click here.


    (be) GOING TO/ PRESENT Continuous =                The same as in Spanish

    Subject +  is/am/are (BE) + Verb with ….ing. Invert Subject with BE for question.

    WILL/WON’T =                                                  Subjective or Personal / 1st Conditional  (If / When……)

    Subject + will/won’t + base verb. Invert Subject with will/won’t for question.

    MIGHT (not) =                                                   Future + Maybe/Perhaps

    Subject + might (not) + base verb. Invert subject with might for question.

    PRESENT simple =                                            Timetables / Public Transport

    See Present Simple – Course: Units 1.4/1.6/1.8

    7. Do the exercises:


    Frase A encaja mejor
    Frase B encaja mejor
    Ambas frases son buenas
    Ninguno es el más adecuado

    Expressing the Future


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