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The Simple Guide to English Future Tenses: A Summary of How to Form Each Tense

By Edited Nov 19, 2015 0 0

The English tense system can strike fear into the hearts of students and teachers alike – but by keeping things simple it can be learnt (or taught) much more easily than you might think. The first thing to remember is that a thorough knowledge of verbs and participles will be needed (and parts of speech in general), after this you will find that each tense tends to follow the same patterns. If one tense is learnt (preferably beginning with the present tense), it will be much easier to learn the rest. Following is a summary of how to form each of the future tenses:

Present simple tense as a future tense

-Affirmative: Subject + base form of verb (+ "es" or "s" for third person singular)

-Negative: Subject + auxiliary verb "do" + not + base form of verb

- Question: Auxiliary verb "do" + subject + base form of verb

You will notice that the formation of the present simple tense remains exactly the same, whether used as a future tense or a present tense. What makes this tense a future tense is if any reference to a date in the future is included e.g.

He plays on Saturdays (This is a general statement as it includes every Saturday, it is therefore an example of the present simple tense)

He plays on Saturday (This is specifically referring to the next Saturday that comes up, making it a future tense)

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 – they are not driving now but later)

BGI tense

The name indicates the formation:

(B = Auxiliary verb "be") + (G = Going) + (I = Infinitive)

-Affirmative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + going + infinitive

I am going to eat this sandwich

-Negative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + not + going + infinitive

I am not going to eat this sandwich

- Question: Auxiliary verb "be" + subject + going + infinitive

Am I going to eat this sandwich?

Note: An infinitive is to + the base form of a verb (for more, see The Simple Guide to Infinitives). The present forms of the auxiliary verb "be" (am, is and are) are used with the BGI tense as "going to" carries the future reference.

Future simple tense

-Affirmative: Subject + will + base form of verb

You will run today; I will be there; They will enjoy it

-Negative: Subject + will + not + base form of verb

You will not run today; I won't be there; They will not enjoy it

- Question: Will + subject + base form of verb

Will you run today?; Will I be there?; Will they enjoy it?

Future continuous tense

Note: The present participle is the "ing" form of a verb. The question form of this tense asks questions that have yes or no answers.

-Affirmative: Subject + will + be + present participle

I will be taking part; He will be leaving for England; They will be arriving soon

-Negative: Subject + will + not + be + present participle

I won't be taking part; He will not be leaving for England; They will not be arriving soon

- Question: Will + subject + be + present participle

Will I be taking part?; Will he be leaving for England?; Will they be arriving soon?

Future perfect tense

-Affirmative: Subject + Will + Have + Past Participle

In five minutes I will have worked for ten hours straight; By the end of the day they will have run fifty kilometers

-Negative: Subject + Will + Not + Have + Past Participle

In five minutes I will not have worked for ten hours straight; By the end of the day they will not have run fifty kilometers

- Question: Will + Subject + Have + Past Participle

In five minutes, will you have worked for ten hours straight?; By the end of the day, will they have run fifty kilometers?

Note: The past participle is often the base form of a verb + "d" or "ed", but many verbs are irregular and have no rules as to their formation. These need to be learnt through practice and experience – a list of irregular verbs can be found in most good English dictionaries. Also, the same sentences have been repeated to illustrate the difference in formation, but if we know the amount of time, we will usually not ask a question like those above. A more natural question would be: In five minutes, how long will you have worked for?

Future perfect continuous tense

-Affirmative: Subject + Will + Have + Been + Present Participle

In five minutes I will have been here for nine hours; This time tomorrow I will have been a member for a full year

-Negative: Subject + Will + Not + Have + Been + Present Participle

In five minutes I will not have been here for nine hours; This time tomorrow I will not have been a member for a full year

- Question: Will + Subject + Have + Been + Present Participle

In five minutes, will you have been here for nine hours?; This time tomorrow, will you have been a member for a full year?

Note: The present participle is the "ing" form of a verb. Also, the same sentences have been repeated to illustrate the difference in formation, but if we know the amount of time, we will usually not ask a question like those above. A more natural question would be: In five minutes, how long will you have been here?

See Also:

A Summary of the uses of each future tense

A Summary of how to form each present tense

A summary of how to form each past tense

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