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Free Grammar Lesson: Talking about Future Plans

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In English we use different tenses to talk about our plans for the future. It’s important to know the difference between them, so that you can start to really sound like a native speaker.

Will

When we make a decision about our plans for the future at the time of speaking, we use will.

For example…

  • Johnny the phone’s ringing! OK, I’ll get it mum! (He decides to answer the phone as he replies to his mum. He didn’t plan to answer it beforehand – and didn’t know it was going to ring)
  • I just can’t make up my mind what shoes to wear tonight. I know. I’ll wear my new sparkly white ones!

Going to

When we already have decided on plans for the future, before the time of speaking, we use going to.

For example…

  • I’m going to ring Johnny this evening. I told him I’d call after football practice at 8pm (He already had the plan to ring Johnny earlier in the day, before speaking).
  • We’re going to order Chinese food today. We’ve already looked at the menu.
  • I know there isn’t any bread. I’m going to buy a loaf. It’s on my shopping list.

Present Continuous

We use the present continuous for future plans when we have already made an ‘arrangement’. This usually means that more than one person is involved in the plan and we know the place and time.

  • I’m having dinner with Mike tonight at 7pm.
  • We’re celebrating Sarah’s birthday next Friday – are you up for it?
  • What are you doing tomorrow? (It is very common to use this tense when asking about other people’s plans for the future)

Quick Practice

Which future tense would you use in these situations?

  1. Oh no – it’s raining outside! I (take) an umbrella
  2. Sorry I can’t come. I (go) to the cinema with Jason tonight.
  3. I want to be more healthy. I know! I (start) playing tennis.
  4. What’s your plan for today? I (study) until the evening and then relax!
  5. I’ve got some big news! I (ask) Lily to marry me tomorrow!

 

Your Turn

It’s important to practice using these tenses as much as possible, to really get a feel for them. Write half a page about your future plans, and try to use each of these 3 tenses at least twice. Good luck!

(Answers)

  1. I’ll take an umbrella
  2. I’m going to the cinema with Jason tonight.
  3. I’ll start playing tennis.
  4. I’m going to study until the evening and then relax!
  5. I’m going to ask Lily to marry me tomorrow!