• 3-minute read
  • 24th August 2017

Grammar Tips: The Future Tense

English is unusual in that, technically, it doesn’t have a future tense. This doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about the future; it’s just that there isn’t a grammatical form in English specifically for this.

However, where there’s a ‘will’, there’s a way. And we mean that in the most literal sense: in English, we use the words ‘will’ and ‘shall’ to form future tenses. In this blog post, we’ll look at the different ways of doing this.

Not the ‘Will’ we had in mind, but it’ll do for now.
(Photo: Walmart Stores)

Simple Future Tense

The simple future tense is usually formed by combining ‘will’ or ‘shall’ and a verb. It can be used for many reasons, including making predictions and expressing a willingness to do something:

Today will be a good day.

I will help you with your coursework.

With all forms of the future tense, you can express a negative by adding ‘not’ after ‘will’ or ‘shall’. In less formal writing, contractions involving ‘will’ and ‘shall’ are common too:

I will not go. = I won’t go.

She will have a great time. = She’ll have a great time.

Future Continuous

The future continuous combines ‘will/shall be’ with a present participle. It is used for predicting, discussing or asking about ongoing actions in the future:

I shall be spending the winter in hibernation.

Will you be going on holiday this year?

She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes…

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

She better get here soon, though. We’re running out of verses.

Future Perfect

In the future perfect tense, we combine ‘will/shall have’ with a past participle. It is used for discussing actions that will have been completed at a future time:

By next year, I shall have finished my studies.

Will you have eaten already by 6pm?

Future Perfect Continuous

The future perfect continuous tense combines ‘will/shall have been’ with a present participle verb. Like the future perfect tense, we use this tense for actions that will have ended at a future time. However, the future perfect continuous typically concerns actions that have already begun:

She will have been living here for six months on Tuesday.

Will you have been studying for long enough by the exam date?

Is there ever enough time?

Will or Shall?

These terms are both used for discussing the future, but traditionally they have been used in different situations depending on grammatical person: ‘shall’ was used with first-person pronouns, and ‘will’ was used with third- and second-person pronouns.

But in modern English, ‘will’ is far more common in all situations. The only exceptions are very formal writing and when a question is posed in the first person. In both of these cases, ‘shall’ is still standard:

Shall I check your grammar?

If you keep these uses of ‘shall’ in mind, you should be able to avoid errors.

Comments (0)

Get help from a language expert.

Try our proofreading services for free.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.