The Future Indefinite Tense

Shall and will were originally notional verbs only, will denoting volition or determination, shall compulsion or obligation. But as an action which a person intends to do or is obliged to do usually refers to the future, these verbs lost their original meaning and turned into auxiliaries of the Future Tense.

Shall can be used in the same way as will in the first person but will is more common. In spoken English, the contraction ll is the most common.

Shall is used more frequently in formal written English than in informal written or spoken English:

We shall make every effort to answer your enquiry as soon as possible.

I shall be at the airport to meet you in person.

The Future Indefinite Tense is used to denote:

1. a future fact or predication

Those flowers wont grow under the tree. Its too dark

The Future Tense is often associated with the following adverbial modifiers of time: tomorrow; tomorrow morning/ night; next Monday/ week, month, year, century; in a week

Ill be 20 next Tuesday.

2. habitual actions in the future.

I hope you will write regularly.

3. a succession of actions in the future.

Ill take her up to town, well do some shopping and have lunch, so we shall be back in late afternoon.


4. The Future Indefinite is not used in subordinate adverbial clauses of time, condition and concession. In such clauses the Present Indefinite Tense is used instead (See the Present Indefinite Tense)

We will start the meeting as soon as he arrives.

Trouble Spots:

1. Care should be taken to distinguish between the adverbial clauses of time and condition and object clauses introduced by the conjunctions when and if, in which case the Future Indefinite is used to denote future actions.

I do not know when he will come (object clause), but when he comes (adverbial clause of time), I shall speak to him.

I dont know if he will bring me the article, but if he brings it, I shall translate it into English.


2. Such constructions as: you and I, we two, we three etc., take will instead of shall:

You and I will have time for thinking about those things later on.


3. English has several forms that can refer to the future. Three of these are will, going to and the Present Continuous.

Ill see you later

We re going to see a film tonight. Do you want to come?

Im seeing my friend tomorrow evening.

The difference between them is not about near or distant future, or about certainty. The speaker chooses a future form depending on when the decision was taken, and how the speaker sees the future event.

Going to is used:

a) To express an intention that has already been planned or decided before the moment of speaking.

Were saving up because were going to buy a house.

Will or going to?

Notice the difference between will to express an intention and going to to express an intention.

The difference concerns when the decision was made. We use will when we decide to do something atthe time of speaking.

A: Weve run out of sugar

B: I know. Im going to buy some.

A: Weve run out of sugar

B: Have we? I didnt know. Ill buy some when I go shopping.

b) To express a prediction, especially when it is based on a present fact. There is evidence now that something is certain to happen.

Oh look! That car is going to crash.

But it can be used to predict something that is not in the immediate future:

That child eats too much. Hes going to be really overweight one day.

Will or going to?

Will is used to express beliefs, hopes, thoughts, assumptions and doubts about the future. Will for a prediction can be based more on an opinion than a fact.

Im sure youll enjoy yourself there.

I think Laura will do very well in her exams. She works hard.

Shes going to have a baby (We can see shes pregnant).

It isnt going to rain today (Look at that lovely blue sky).

There are occasions when going to to express a future event and will for prediction are virtually the same.

This governments policies are going to / will ruin the country.


Be going to future versus Present Continuous as future.

a) Look at that helicopter coming down. Its going to land in a minute.

b) Look at that helicopter coming down. Its landing in a minute.

Sentence: a) is correct but sentence b) is not possible.

We dont use the Present Continuous to make a prediction based on present evidence.

Present Continuous as future can be used to express a future arrangement between people. It usually refers to the near future. It commonly occurs with the verbs expressing some kind of activity or movement (come, go, see, leave, meet, etc.).

There is often little difference between a future intention (be going to) and a future arrangement (Present Continuous) and often going to and the Present Continuous are interchangeable.

We re going to get married in the spring.

Were getting married in the spring.

Notice that we tend to avoid using verbs of motion, e.g. to go and to come in the be going to and prefer instead to use the Present Continuous with these verbs:

Were going to the theatre tonight.


The Future Perfect Tense

(will+have+past participle)

Future Perfect is used:

  1. to express an action that will be finished before a definite moment of time in the future and is viewed back from that future moment.

We do not know exactly when the action will be happen; we only know it will happen before a certain time.

Ill have finished it before you get back.

This tense can be called the past in the future.

The future moment from which the completed action is viewed may be indicated:

a) by adverbials of time such as by seven oclock, by that time, by the first of June, by then, nottill/until:

By the end of the term we shall have learnt many new words and expressions.

I will have graduated by the year 2014.

She wont have completed the job until tomorrow morning.

It is often used after the verbs like believe, expect, hope, suppose:

I expect you will have changed your mind by tomorrow.

b) by means of another action:

If you come at seven, I shall have done my work.

If you ring me up after seven oclock, I shall have spoken to the secretary.

The Future Perfect is used in negative sentences and with statal verbs which do not admit of continuous form.

I shall have been a teacher for 20 years by next May.

By the 1st of July we shall have been at the seaside for a fortnight.

We shall have known each other for five years by the end of this year.


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