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The Future is ……….. difficult in English

Grammar books dedicate many pages to explaining how to talk and write about the future in English, so unsurprisingly it is always difficult to master the subtleties of this verb tense. This article focuses on three future verb forms because they are very useful and can be misused and misunderstood.

Since it is now summer in England I will use holidays to illustrate my point. Let’s say I want to communicate that I have already arranged to go to France. Is it correct to say “I am going to go to France for my holiday”? Answer: No. Why? The subtle message in this statement is that it is my intention to go to France and it is unclear whether this holiday has already been arranged. If I had said “I am going to France for my holiday” instead, then it would have been more clear that the holiday has already been arranged.

Therefore it is a choice between communicating an intended plan or an implemented plan. You should use the present continuous/progressive (the verb ‘to be’ plus the ‘-ing’ form of the main verb) to communicate an intended plan and the verb ‘to be’ plus ‘going to’ plus the main verb for an implemented plan.

Another subtlety is also very useful at the point in time when an intended plan changes to an actual plan. If I say: “I will go to Spain for my holiday instead of France”, I communicate the actual plan that I have just this minute decided on i.e. to go to Spain instead of France. So, you can use ‘will’ plus the main verb without ‘to’ to communicate decisions made right now about the future.

When I started to write this article the sun was streaming through my office window and I am going on holiday in a few weeks, so the idea of writing example sentences about holidays came naturally as soon as I started tapping the keys. The verb form in the first sentence of the second paragraph communicates that spontaneous, immediate decision. Amazingly for England the sun is still shining now, so I will sit outside for a few minutes before my next class..

Posted June 25th, 2014 In Blog

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