Outlooks and forecasts (The language of predictions)

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by Kate Woodford

It’s February – still more or less the start of the year – and you may still be thinking about the months ahead and predicting what’s likely to happen. With this in mind, we’re looking today at the words and phrases that we use to say what we think will – or might – happen in the future.

Let’s start with the noun prediction, meaning ‘a statement about what you think will happen in the future’:

Here are our predictions for this year’s Oscar nominees.  We often talk about making a prediction.

I’m not going to make any predictions about the outcome of the election.

Predictions are sometimes said to be gloomy (=without hope): gloomy predictions about the economy

Forecast means the same as ‘prediction’ but is usually used for statements about how the weather will be or how the economy will be:

a weather forecast

The forecast is for snow.

economic forecasts

‘Forecast’ is also a verb: Storms are forecast for tomorrow.

Oil prices are forecast to drop this year.

Outlook is a useful word in this area. It means ‘the likely future situation’: The political outlook is still uncertain.

A bad outlook may be described as bleak: The outlook for the economy is bleak.

Moving on to verbs, the phrasal verb look ahead means ‘to think about what will happen in the future and plan for these events’: Looking ahead, we’re almost certainly going to need more staff.

To second-guess someone is to say what you think they might do in the future: I’ve given up trying to second-guess Al. I never know what he’s going to do next.

In UK English, if a person is tipped as something or tipped to do something, a lot of people are predicting that they will get an important and desirable job:

She’s being tipped as the next party leader.

So which managers are being tipped to replace Silva?

If someone correctly predicts what will happen, you might informally say that that they call it: ‘I said United would win, didn’t I?’ ‘You did! You called it!’

Moving on to phrases, in UK English, if you have a nasty feeling/suspicion that something bad will happen, you think it is likely to happen: I have a nasty feeling that Ethan is going to get the blame.

A (UK) merchant of doom (US/UK doom merchant) is someone who keeps saying something bad will happen, especially when there is no reason to believe this: Don’t listen to the merchants of doom. There are plenty of opportunities in this sector.

Finally, a crystal ball is a ball-shaped, glass object that some people believe shows what will happen in the future. You hear this phrase in expressions about making predictions: ‘So, this is the part of the show when I ask you to gaze into your crystal ball and tell me who’s going to win the championship.’

14 thoughts on “Outlooks and forecasts (The language of predictions)

  1. Anes

    This is the first time I use the site.I find it very useful.Thank you very much for the very necessary tips that help learn nglish.

  2. Jason, Han

    Prediction, sometimes, means: objectively and reasonablely saying something is going to happen in the future.
    Outlook is more subjectively and likely to state or plan that something would happen.
    Yes, forcast is usually about weather or something has the similar chaotic tendency in the procedure of development.
    That’s some differences among the three, I thought.

  3. Maryem Salama

    It is not because of the plenty of doom merchants we have that I second guess peace will be the only absent in the next decade, but it is likely an outcome of an equation of numbers. (With love and peace to Kate)

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