How to get the future right: using present tenses to express the future
Some of my students recently asked me for a revision lesson on future tenses in English. In particular, they wanted to revise the ways we express the future by using a present tense. I decided it would be a good idea to post something here about it, too.
English has two present tenses: the present simple ‘I go’ (meaning ‘I go every day’) and the present continuous ‘I’m going’ (meaning ‘I’m going at this very moment’).
We can also use both these tenses to express the future.
The present simple tense for the future
This is often called the ‘timetable future’. We use it to express:
- future travel itineraries
- arrivals and departures
- starting times of meetings.
Here are some examples:
- ‘My train leaves at 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon’;
- ‘What time does the bus to Liverpool leave?’;
- ‘The sales meeting starts at 11 o’clock’;
- ‘The tour of the factory begins at 10.30 and lunch is at 12.00’.
The present continuous tense for the future
This is often called the ‘diary future’. It expresses:
- a future arrangement between people
- the type of things that we write in our diaries (appointments, meet-ups with friends, etc.).
- ‘I’m meeting my brother at 2 o’clock tomorrow’;
- ‘What time are you going to the cinema?’;
- ‘Our bosses from Germany are coming next week’;
- ‘I’m going to the dentist next Friday’.
So, you can see that we don’t use will every time we want to speak about the future. Choosing the correct tense to speak about what’s happening tomorrow or next week can help your English sound much more natural and convincing.
See some more examples and try our on-line exercises, then let me know how you did.
See you in the future!