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 first of the future tenses, the present simple tense (used as a future tense).
When is the present simple tense used as a future tense?
The present simple tense is used as a future tense when:
- Referring to a future date when an event or action will take place e.g.
He starts his new job tomorrow, The train leaves at eight; He runs his race next Tuesday
- Referring to timetables and schedules
We leave home at midnight and arrive at the coast just before sunrise.
How is the present simple tense formed?
Tenses have three variations: Affirmative, Negative and Question
Note: For more on the present simple tense, see The Simple Guide to the English Present Tenses: The Present Simple 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)
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.