“Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.” – Doc Brown, Back to the future.

Just like the past and present tenses, there is more than one future tense in English. These change depending on the function and what we want to say.

Today we’re going to look at four future tenses: the future simple, the future continuous, the future perfect and the future perfect continuous. We’ll show you how and when to use them. We’ll also share with you some fun videos and activities to help you understand them better.

Ready to learn? Let’s go!

The future tenses

Take a look at the four future tenses in English and how they’re used in a sentence:

The future tenses | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

1. Future Simple

Let’s start with the basics. The future simple is used to talk about a time later than now and can be used in lots of different ways.

Form

  • It is made up of the verb will/won’t + base infinitive (infinitive without to).
  • Because will is a modal verb it doesn’t change depending on the person doing the action.
  • We can use contractions e.g. I will = I’ll.
  • In the negative, we can also use will not for more emphasis.
  • Won’t is more common in speech.
  • In short answers we say: yes X will or no X won’t.
 

Here’s a look at the future simple in positive and negative statements and questions.

Future Simple | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Uses and examples

  • Instant or spontaneous decisionsI’m hungry. I think I’ll make a sandwich.
  • Future predictions based on a beliefI’m sure you’ll pass the test.
  • PromisesI won’t tell anyone your secret.
  • OffersI’ll carry your bags for you.
  • RequestsWill you tell Henry I called?
  • ThreatsIf you do that again, I’ll tell Mum.
  • Future factsI’ll be back later tonight.
 

Shall

We can use shall instead of will for future time references with I and we. However, it is slightly more formal.

E.g. We shall never forget this beautiful day.

It is also common to use shall in questions to make offers, suggestions or ask for advice.

E.g. Shall I carry these bags for you?

Shall I open the window?

What shall I tell Mary about the broken vase?

Be going to vs will

It’s important to note that for predictions based on evidence and for future plans we use be going to not will.

E.g. Look at those grey clouds. It’s definitely going to rain!

What are you doing after work?

I’m going to the gym.

Activity One

For more about the differences between will and be going to to talk about the future, watch this video from Learn English with TV Series:

 

2. Future continuous

Now let’s move on to the future continuous. Generally, we use this tense to talk about things in progress at a particular time in the future. Take a look at the form:

Form

The structure of the future continuous is as follows: will/won’t + be + ing form

Future Continuous | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Uses and examples

  • An action in progress at a specific time in the future (at 5pm, this time tomorrow, in two weeks, in five years time etc.). This time tomorrow, I’ll be flying to Barbados.
  • An action we see as new or temporary. I’ll be working for my Dad until I find a new job.
  • Predictions or guesses about future events. He’ll be coming to the party, I guess.
  • Predictions about the present. She’ll be getting married right now, I imagine.
  • Polite enquiries. Will you be joining us for dinner?
 

Stative verbs

It’s important to remember that some verbs cannot be used in the continuous tense. These are called stative verbs. Stative verbs describe states, feelings, thoughts and opinions. Instead of the future continuous, we use the future simple tense for these verbs. Here are some examples:

Future Continuous - Stative verbs | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Activity two

Here’s a fun activity to practise what you’ve learnt about the future continuous. All you have to do is talk about what you’ll be doing at these different points in time. Try saying them out loud or write down your answers on a piece of paper. We’ll post some possible answers at the end of this blog post.

What will you be doing…?

Activity Two | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

 

3. Future perfect

Once you’ve mastered the future continuous, it’s time to learn the future perfect. The future perfect is used to talk about a completed action in the future. Here’s a look at the form:

Form

 

Future Perfect | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Uses and examples

  • An action that will be completed before a specific time in the future. Next September, we’ll have been married for 50 years.
  • Use by or by the time to mean some time before. I’ll have finished this report by the time you’re home.
  • Use in, in a day’s time, in two weeks’ time, in three months’ time etc. to mean at the end of this period. In three years’ time, I’ll have completed my degree.
 

Activity three

Should you use has instead of have for third person in the future perfect? Here’s BBC Learn English with the answer.

 

4. Future perfect continuous

We use the future perfect continuous to show that something will continue up until a particular event in the future. We normally use it to emphasise how long something will have been happening for.

Form

The form of the future perfect continuous is will/won’t + have + been + ing (present participle)

Future Perfect Continuous | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Uses and examples

  • To show that something will continue up until a particular event in the future. In October, I’ll have been working here for ten years.
  • To show something finished just before another time action (cause and effect). When I arrive, I’ll have been working all day, so I’ll be tired.
  • With time expressions (by + then / tomorrow / next year etc., by the time, when). By the time we arrive, we’ll have been travelling for fifteen hours.
 

Activity four

Look at these five photos of people with different professions. Write down sentences using the future perfect continuous to describe what they will have been doing four hours into their work shift. E.g. They will have been cooking for four hours. We’ll write some examples at the end of the blog post.

Activity Four | 4 Future tenses in English and how to use them | Oxford House Barcelona

Suggested Answers

Activity two

  • In five minutes I’ll still be reading this blog post.
  • In two hours I’ll be at home watching the TV on the sofa.
  • At 9pm I’ll be cooking dinner.
  • This time tomorrow I’ll be doing my English exam.
  • I’ll probably be playing football on Saturday morning.
  • I’ll be having dinner with friends next Friday.
  • I’ll be having my operation in 2 weeks.
  • I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next month.
  • I’ll be saying goodbye to 2021 at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
 

Activity four

  • A) Police officer – He’ll have been catching criminals for four hours.
  • B) Doctor – She’ll have been saving lives for four hours.
  • C) English Teacher – He’ll have been teaching grammar for four hours.
  • D) Chefs – They’ll have been cooking for four hours.
  • E) Footballer – She’ll have been kicking a ball around for four hours.

So there you have it. You’ve officially learnt the future tenses. Well done you! If you’d like to learn more grammar, check out the following blog posts:

 

And if you’d like some extra help, why not join one of our General English Courses, to practise using these tenses in conversation?

Glossary for Language Learners

 

Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

to be made up of sth. (pv): to be comprised up of something.

out loud (exp): audibly.

to master sth. (v): to become an expert at something.

work shift (n): a period of time that you work.

Key

pv = phrasal verb

exp = expression

n = noun

v = verb

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