This analysis of future verb forms was written by Rob De Decker, who teaches English at a Flemish grammar school (equivalent to an American high school) in Schellebelle, Belgium. It is used here with his permission.

1. Simple Present

2. Simple Future

We also need to make a distinction between Simple Future for a decision that is not "premeditated," i.e. that is made on the spot (here and now or there and then), and the "going to" construction, which implies an intention that already existed before the moment of speaking. (See, also, below.)

3. Future Perfect

4. Present Continuous

5. Future continuous

6. To be going to

7. Future Perfect Continuous


  1. If you want to inquire about a person's actions in the future, avoid the Simple Future, as it will make it sound like a request.
    • Compare: Will you be visiting him tomorrow ? (= I just wonder) with
    • Will you visit him tomorrow ? (= a request or an inquiry about his intentions).

  2. If you want to make it clear that the subject won't be doing something in the future, not because he does not want to, but due to circumstances, avoid the Simple Future.
    • Compare : He won't come to my party. (= he refuses to come)
    • He won't be coming to my party. (= he can't)

  3. If you want to use a future activity as an excuse, avoid to be going to, as that would make it sound like a personal preference at the moment. Use the Present Continuous instead, to make it clear that it is something you had already arranged, that you are engaged elsewhere.
    • I'm sorry, I'd love to have a game of chess with you, but I'm taking Mary out for dinner tonight. (I'm going to take ...would make it sound as if you prefer Mary's company to your friend's).

  4. It is safe to use WILL for the three persons, except in questions asking for instructions or advice, where we use SHALL.:
    • Shall I take your luggage upstairs? / What shall I do if Ken is late (= what do you want/expect me to do?)


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