by Kate Woodford
Last week we looked at the most basic tenses and structures that are used for talking about the future. This week, we’re considering some more future tenses and structures and thinking about exactly how they are used.
Let’s start with the present simple. Like the present continuous, this tense can be used for talking about future events that are planned, or ‘in the diary’:
We leave for France next Tuesday.
Term starts next week.
Her plane gets in at three in the morning.
Notice that two of the above examples relate to events that are not only planned, but planned by someone else, as part of an official diary or timetable. This is a typical use of the present simple for future events.
We should mention another important use of the present tense for relating the future, and one that students sometimes get wrong. A present tense – often the present simple – is used for talking about future events in phrases that contain words relating to time, such as when, after and until.
We’ll come and stay with you when the weather gets nicer.
We’ll come and stay with you when the weather will get nicer.
Wait in the café until I come
Wait in the café until I will come.
Another tense that we use to talk about the time to come is the future continuous (will be + v-ing):
Sure – come round at nine. I’ll be working, but Tim will be in.
This time next week, we’ll be flying over the Atlantic.
Yet another future tense is the future perfect (will have + v-ed). We use this tense for an action that will be completed by a particular point in the future:
By Thursday, I’ll have finished this report.
I’ll have left the party by the time you arrive.
Note that we often use the preposition by with the future perfect, (by Thursday/by the time you arrive).
Of course, not everything in the future is certain! We need a way of talking about future events that are only possible. For this, we have the modal verbs may, might, and could:
We may be there by six, but I can’t say for sure.
I might leave a bit early – it depends.
It could be a success.
If we think that something probably will happen, (though we are not completely certain), we can use the modal verb should:
We should be back by eight.
It should be ready by then.
Whatever your plans for the future, certain or uncertain, I hope this post helps you to talk about them with confidence!