Future Tenses in English – contrasted

1. Use of Future Tenses in English

will-future going to-future Simple Present Present Progressive Future Progressive Future Perfect
  • prediction, assumption
  • spontaneous action
  • planned action in the future
  • logical consequence (sth. is going to happen)
future action is fixed (e.g. timetable) planned action in the near future action will definitely happen (it usually happens) sth. will already have happened before a certain time in the future

There is often very little difference between the future tenses. It often depends where you live (in Britain or the USA) and when you use the sentence (in spoken or written communication).

In newsapapers we often use the will-future, when the going to-future is used in oral communication.

newspaper:
The headmaster will close the old gym.

oral:
The headmaster is going to close the old gym.


We can substitute the going to-future with the Present Progressive when using an expression of time.

She is going to see Frank at the airport at 8.30. = She is seeing Frank at the airport at 8.30.

2. Signal words

There are no unambiguous signal words for the future tenses. That's why watch the actions carefully and then define the tense.

3. Form

will-future going to-future Simple Present Present Progressive Future Progressive Future Perfect
will + infinitive to be (am, are, is) + going to + infinitive infinitive
3rd person singular (he, she, it) infinitive + -s
to be (am, are, is) + infinitive + -ing will + be + infinitive + -ing will + have + past participle

4. Examples

4.1. Affirmative sentences

will-future going to-future Simple Present Present Progressive Future Progressive Future Perfect
He will carry this bag for you. We are going to fly to Leeds in summer. The train leaves at 6.45. I am going to a party tonight. They will be playing football on Sunday afternoon. She will have written the letter by tomorrow.

4.2. Negative sentences

will-future going to-future Simple Present Present Progressive Future Progressive Future Perfect
He will not carry this bag for you. We are not going to fly to Leeds in summer. The train does not leave at 6.45. I am not going to a party tonight. They will not be playing football on Sunday afternoon. She will not have written the letter by tomorrow.

4.3. Questions

will-future going to-future Simple Present Present Progressive Future Progressive Future Perfect
Will he carry this bag for you? Are we going to fly to Leeds in summer? Does the train leave at 6.45? Am I going to a party tonight? Will they be playing football on Sunday afternoon. Will she have written the letter by tomorrow.