If you speak English, you most likely make use of the English future tense every day. And chances are, if you're not an English scholar or planning on teaching English, you don't know how to explain how each of the seven tenses making up the future tense system are formed and used (or even that there are seven variations!). For the average person; there is one future tense and that's all there is to know. If you want to know more (or plan on teaching English) then knowledge of each of the seven minor tenses that make up the past tense is required. The seven future tenses are: present simple, present continuous, BGI, future simple, future continuous, future perfect and future perfect continuous.
This simple guide will tell you everything you need to know about the second of the future tenses, the present continuous tense (used as a future tense).
When is the present continuous tense used as a future tense?
The present continuous tense is used as a future tense when reference to a future date is included, it is used when:
- Referring to plans or actions that will take place at a specific time or date in the future e.g.
They are leaving tomorrow; It is arriving next Tuesday
- Referring to plans or actions that will take place in the future, with no specific time or date being mentioned e.g.
I am resigning from this post; He is leaving the country
How is the present continuous tense formed?
Tenses have three variations: Affirmative, Negative and Question
Note: For more on the present continuous tense, see The Simple Guide to English Present Tenses : The Present Continuous Tense.
-Affirmative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + present participle
-Negative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + not + present participle
- Question: Auxiliary verb "be" + subject + present participle
The present continuous tense is formed in exactly the same way, whether it is used as a future tense or a present tense. It becomes a future tense when a reference to a future date or event is included e.g.
They are driving to the mall (present continuous as it is happening now)
They are driving to the mall later (present continuous used as a future tense as reference to a future event is included â they are not driving now but later)
Keep it simple
It may seem that there is no simple way of learning the English tense system, but by taking one minor tense at a time and practicing its formation and different uses, one will find that the tense system can be learnt fairly quickly. Knowledge of parts of speech and the rules to form each tense is important in the beginning, and once these are fully remembered, practice will see the entire system becoming much easier to understand and use naturally and correctly.