Grammar: What is future tense?
Writing
Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar in English can be a love/hate thing. Some of us love completing grammar exercises and seeing how language patterns fit together, while others are just left confused and frustrated. If you're in the latter category, things aren't made any better when explanations include expressions like 'future perfect continuous'. So in today's blog, I'm going to try and help you use some of the different types of future tenses correctly without using difficult grammar names.  The way we use the future tenses is a lot more flexible than the past or present tenses, because it’s a lot less certain what’s going to happen, than what has happened or is happening. So instead of studying grammar forms, let’s study the situations when we use a future tense.  I’ve made up my own name for each situation, which you’re probably not going to find in any grammar books, but which my students find helpful    The ‘Timetable Future’ (We use this when we talk about timetables and scheduled events.) e.g.: The film starts at 7pm. The wedding is at 3 o’clock.  Surprise! This future tense doesn’t even look like the future at all! We use the present. Instead of wondering why, make some examples of your own. You could talk about: the opening time of your favourite coffee shop, the release date of a film you’re looking forward to, … Diary Future (Used for arrangements – usually with other people) e.g.: I’m meeting Jenny for coffee tomorrow. She’s flying to France on Wednesday. Again, if you look closely, this isn’t actually the future, but another present tense. In order to make examples, take a look at your own diary and talk about what you have already arranged to do.  The Plans and Dreams Future (used for things we want to do, but haven’t arranged yet – i.e. you haven’t bought the tickets or arranged a fixed time) e.g.: I’m going to buy a big house. I’m going to become a writer. Finally! An actual ‘future grammar’. (Be careful though, it looks quite similar to the ‘arrangements’ form.) I love this grammar, because it allows me to talk about my dreams. Go on, make a few examples yourself. Dream big!  The Promise Future (We use this to make promises, including promises to ourselves.) e.g.: I will always love you. I’ll write to you every day.  In order to come up with your own example, think of a person or two and think of the kinds of promises we usually make to them. E.g. your mother/father, a teacher, your boss, … What-I-Think-Will-Happen-Future (We use this for predictions.) e.g.: He’ll be very famous one day. My car won’t last much longer.  Ok, so this isn’t the most elegant name, but it describes the function of this future here. In order to think of your own example, make a few guesses about the future. Think about cars, politics, education… What do you think will happen in these areas?  This future tense is often confused with the next one, because they are both used for predicting the future. The difference is that in the next section, we feel more certain, because we feel that we have evidence. So there are some situations where either future would work. I-can-SEE-the-future-future (We use this future when we make a prediction based on current ‘evidence’) e.g. She is going to have a baby. It’s going to rain.  In order to make examples here, start with an ‘evidence’ sentence. e.g. ‘I only have £10 left in my bank account.’ Then make a prediction based on that evidence. “I’m going to run out of money before the end of the month.” For the final future use I want to show you today, let’s go back to a ‘will’ form: Quick Decisions Future (Used when something happens that prompts us to make a decision about what action to take.) e.g.: “It’s hot! I’ll open the window.”;  “It’s Rita’s birthday next week?” “ Really? I’ll buy her some chocolates.”  In order to find some examples for this situation, see what happens to you the rest of the day and imagine what you would say in English.  In the exam, you’re more likely to use the future forms in the Speaking test than in the writing part, but if you can use the right future tense for the right situation in the Speaking test, it’ll definitely impress the examiner and give your speaking score a boost.  In this blog, I’ve focussed on simple future structures as they are the ones you’re most likely to need in the exam. If you’re feeling a bit more confident now, would like to see how the different futures work in an IELTS context, and would like to find out about the ‘future perfect continuous’, you could check out  page 38-54 of Grammar for IELTS. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 June, 2020

Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar in English can be a love/hate thing. Some of us love completing grammar exercises and seeing how language patterns fit together, while others are just left confused and frustrated. If you're in the latter category, things aren't made any better when explanations include expressions like 'future perfect continuous'. So in today's blog, I'm going to try and help you use some of the different types of future tenses correctly without using difficult grammar names. 

The way we use the future tenses is a lot more flexible than the past or present tenses, because it’s a lot less certain what’s going to happen, than what has happened or is happening. So instead of studying grammar forms, let’s study the situations when we use a future tense. 

I’ve made up my own name for each situation, which you’re probably not going to find in any grammar books, but which my students find helpful 
 

The ‘Timetable Future’ (We use this when we talk about timetables and scheduled events.)

e.g.: The film starts at 7pm. The wedding is at 3 o’clock. 

Surprise! This future tense doesn’t even look like the future at all! We use the present. Instead of wondering why, make some examples of your own. You could talk about: the opening time of your favourite coffee shop, the release date of a film you’re looking forward to, …


Diary Future (Used for arrangements – usually with other people)

e.g.: I’m meeting Jenny for coffee tomorrow. She’s flying to France on Wednesday.

Again, if you look closely, this isn’t actually the future, but another present tense. In order to make examples, take a look at your own diary and talk about what you have already arranged to do. 


The Plans and Dreams Future (used for things we want to do, but haven’t arranged yet – i.e. you haven’t bought the tickets or arranged a fixed time)

e.g.: I’m going to buy a big house. I’m going to become a writer.

Finally! An actual ‘future grammar’. (Be careful though, it looks quite similar to the ‘arrangements’ form.) I love this grammar, because it allows me to talk about my dreams. Go on, make a few examples yourself. Dream big! 


The Promise Future (We use this to make promises, including promises to ourselves.)

e.g.: I will always love you. I’ll write to you every day. 

In order to come up with your own example, think of a person or two and think of the kinds of promises we usually make to them. E.g. your mother/father, a teacher, your boss, …


What-I-Think-Will-Happen-Future (We use this for predictions.)

e.g.: He’ll be very famous one day. My car won’t last much longer. 

Ok, so this isn’t the most elegant name, but it describes the function of this future here. In order to think of your own example, make a few guesses about the future. Think about cars, politics, education… What do you think will happen in these areas? 

This future tense is often confused with the next one, because they are both used for predicting the future. The difference is that in the next section, we feel more certain, because we feel that we have evidence. So there are some situations where either future would work.


I-can-SEE-the-future-future (We use this future when we make a prediction based on current ‘evidence’)

e.g. She is going to have a baby. It’s going to rain

In order to make examples here, start with an ‘evidence’ sentence. e.g. ‘I only have £10 left in my bank account.’ Then make a prediction based on that evidence. “I’m going to run out of money before the end of the month.”


For the final future use I want to show you today, let’s go back to a ‘will’ form:

Quick Decisions Future (Used when something happens that prompts us to make a decision about what action to take.)

e.g.: “It’s hot! I’ll open the window.”;  “It’s Rita’s birthday next week?” “ Really? I’ll buy her some chocolates.” 

In order to find some examples for this situation, see what happens to you the rest of the day and imagine what you would say in English. 

In the exam, you’re more likely to use the future forms in the Speaking test than in the writing part, but if you can use the right future tense for the right situation in the Speaking test, it’ll definitely impress the examiner and give your speaking score a boost. 


In this blog, I’ve focussed on simple future structures as they are the ones you’re most likely to need in the exam. If you’re feeling a bit more confident now, would like to see how the different futures work in an IELTS context, and would like to find out about the ‘future perfect continuous’, you could check out  page 38-54 of Grammar for IELTS.

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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