Use of the German Futur I

(The first future tense in German grammar)

Table of contents – Futur I

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Usage of the Futur I
  2. Futur I for assumptions
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What is the Futur I, and when is it used?

The Futur I is one of the two future tenses in German grammar. It primarily refers to the future, although it is also regularly used for other temporal aspects. The Futur 1 occurs much less frequently than other very common tenses, such as the Präsens or the Perfekt, yet it is the suitable choice in specific speech situations. Learners of German as a foreign language should therefore master it.

The Futur I is composed of two parts, which are the auxiliary verb ‘werden’ and a main (lexical) verb. See its formation for more details.

Compare the following possibilities of using the Futur I:

  • As the name implies, the primary function is to express the future. However, this may sound too highbrow, so people prefer to use the present tense Präsens for the future instead (see the direct comparison in detail). Nevertheless, the subsequent sentences are correct and can undoubtedly be used:
    • „Die Firma wird Ende des Jahres eine neue Lagerhalle bauen.“ (The company will build a new warehouse at the end of the year.)
    • „Wir werden unser neues Modell auf der nächsten Messe präsentieren.“ (We are going to present our latest model at the next trade fair.)
  • A little more often, the Futur 1 is used for forecasts and predictions for the future:
    • „Schau, die dunklen Wolken! Wir beeilen uns besser, es wird bald regnen.“ (Look, the dark clouds! We’d better hurry, it’s going to rain soon.)
      • Here, the event in the future (rain) is not sure, but the fact in the present (dark clouds) indicates it.
    • „Tim, beeil dich ein bisschen! Der Chef wird gleich hier sein.“ (Tim, hurry up a little! The boss is going to be here any minute.)
      • In this situation, the speaker already has information about the future event (the boss’s arrival). Accordingly, the Futur 1 is used and suitable.
  • The natural and most common way of using the Futur 1 tense in German is for assumptions. The next section will go into this in detail. To begin with, here are two example sentences:
    • „Markus macht nicht auf. Ich habe schon zweimal geklingelt. Er wird wohl noch unterwegs sein.“ (Markus isn’t answering the door. I’ve already rung the doorbell twice. He’ll probably still be out.)
    • „Es ist schon spät. Die Kinder werden bereits schlafen.“ (It’s already late. The children will already be asleep.)
  • Another possibility of the Futur I is to give orders or instructions, so it can usually replace the imperative. In most cases, the subject is in the second person singular or plural:
    • „Du wirst das nie mehr erwähnen, Sophie.“ (You will never mention this again, Sophie.)
      • Or with the imperative as: „Erwähne das nie mehr, Sophie!“ (Never mention this again, Sophie!)
    • „Ihr werdet mir noch heute Bescheid geben.“ (You will let me know today.)
      • Also possible as an imperative: „Gebt mir noch heute Bescheid!“ (Let me know today!)
  • Likewise, we can use it as part of conditional clauses. The future tense then specifies the result or outcome of the condition:
    • „Ich werde es dir nicht sagen, auch wenn du mich zehnmal fragst!“ (I won’t tell you even if you ask me ten times.)
    • „Wenn ich genug Geld gespart habe, werde ich eine Weltreise machen.“ (When I have saved enough money, I’ll take a trip around the world.)

The Futur I for assumptions

Although the Futur I is a future tense, German speakers frequently employ it to make assumptions. These assumptions or suppositions usually refer to the present. The reason for this preferred usage is probably the simpler sentence formation since we would need an additional clause to do so with the Präsens.

Examine the comparison of the examples:

  • „Sei aber einfühlsam; deine Eltern werden noch nichts von deinem Vorhaben wissen!“ (Be sensitive, though; your parents won’t know about your plan yet.)
    • In terms of meaning, one sentence with the Futur 1 is enough to express the assumption. It is also possible with the Präsens, but an additional sentence is required (often subordinate clauses or clauses with ‘dass’):
      • „Ich denke, dass deine Eltern noch nichts von deinem Vorhaben wissen.“ (I think that your parents don’t know about your plan yet.)
      • „Ich denke, deine Eltern wissen noch nichts von deinem Vorhaben.“ (I think your parents don’t know about your plan yet.)
  • Equally common is the use of the Futur I for expecting that certain events will or will not happen:
    • „Ich nehme auf unsere Wandertour nur einen Liter Wasser mit. – Ach, das wird schon reichen.“ (I’m going to take just one litre of water with me on our hiking trip. – Yup, that’ll be enough.)
      • Here, the answer functions as a confirmation and supposition.
    • „Nimmst du einen Regenschirm mit? – Nee, es wird schon nicht regnen.“ (Are you taking an umbrella? – Nah, it won’t rain.)
      • Here, the speaker strongly hopes or assumes that it will not rain.

Further explanations referring to the ‘German Futur I’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Futur 1 in German grammar’ and may therefore be helpful too: