Using future tenses in English, Part 1

Happy New Year! It’s finally 2024, and time to think about your plans for the year.

In English, we use four different verb forms to talk about the future. Let’s focus on two of the future tenses here. Look at next week’s post for the other two.

General goals: If you want to talk about general goals you have for the year, use “to be + going to + verb”.

Example 1: This year I am going to find a new job.

Example 2: In 2024, I am going to read 5 English books.

As you can see, these are general plans without any appointments, dates or times. In German you might call these Vorhaben.

Predictions with evidence: We also use “to be + going to + verb” when we make predictions (Vorhersagen) about the future when we have information that shows us the prediction is almost certain to happen.

Example 1: Quarters 1 and 2 were very successful. Our company is going to have a good year.

Example 2: Construction work has started on the main road. It’s going to take longer to travel to the office until the work is finished.

Specific plans / set appointments: If you have specific plans, however, you use the present continuous form for the future, or “to be + verb-ing”.

Example 1: I am meeting a friend of mine for lunch on Tuesday at noon.

Example 2: We are visiting Austria over the winter school holidays. We booked our hotel last week.

These are plans that are already in your calendar, so they are set or confirmed appointments.

In sum, use “to be + going to + verb” in two situations: to talk about general plans and to talk about predictions you can make based on information you have today. Use “to be + verb-ing” to talk about concrete or set appointments you have in your calendar.

Mindy Ehrhart Krull
About the author

Originally from the US, Mindy Ehrhart Krull holds a master's degree in journalism and has been teaching English and working as an author, editor and proofreader in Germany since 2008.

At DELS, she leads a team of several English trainers and language professionals.

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