Ways to express the future

(How can the future be expressed in English?)

Table of contents – ways to express the future

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Expressions and forms to indicate the future
  2. Further explanations and exercises

What expressions and forms can indicate the future?

The English language offers several possibilities with verb tenses and expressions for speaking about the future. Depending on meaning and intention these can be the following:

  1. In general, the future can be referred to with the auxiliary verb ‘will’ (will-future). This is especially true for spontaneous decisions:
    • “There will surely be a lot of people in the zoo.”
    • “I’ll have the hamburger, please.”
      • This is a spontaneous statement.
  2. If there is a plan for a future action or if a present fact indicates a future event, the expression ‘to be going to’ can be used:
    • “I’m going to buy a new car.”
    • “It’s going to rain soon. There are a lot of black clouds in the sky.”
  3. Although the present simple is mainly used for the present tense, it can also express the future at times. This is the case when we talk about time tables, schedules of buses, planes, etc.:
    • “The plane leaves at 7 o’clock.”
    • “The train arrives at 6.15 tomorrow.”
  4. Not only for ongoing actions in the present, the present continuous can additionally be used for fixed arrangements or appointments in the future:
    • “My wife is flying to Rome tomorrow.”
    • “We’re moving to Glasgow next month.”
  5. The two forms ‘to be about to’ and ‘to be on the point of’ can express intentions and events that are going to happen in the immediate future (which means very soon):
    • “I’m sorry, I don’t have time. I’m about to leave.”
    • “You can ask her yourself, I’m on the point of calling her.”
  6. The use of ‘to be to’ is usually reserved for formal context but also indicates future events:
    • “The mayor is to give a speech tomorrow.”
    • “You are to report to the headmaster at 4 p.m.”

Further explanations relating to ‘Referencing the future in English’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Ways to express the future in English’ and may be helpful: