Future Tense: Definition, Structures and Examples

Many English learners need clarification about future tense meaning, considering that at least five verb forms are available and have different uses. Worse yet, the present simple or present continuous tenses can sometimes be used as a future tense’s alternatives.

We have published this article to gather all knowledge in one place for your reference.

Check it out now, and you will thank us!

What Is The Future Tense?

future tense

The overall definition of future tense

There are three main timestamps in English equivalent to the three tenses: the past tense, the present tense, and the future tense.

The future tense refers to events and activities happening on a later date, for example, tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year, etc.

Each tense features variations such as simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive. Speaking of the future tense alone, it has another variation called near future.

While most English learners at the entry level know and use the simple future and near future frequently, advanced learners want to use other variations to precisely describe the context of events and activities.

5 Variations of Future Tense

Future Simple: Conjugations & Examples

future simple

Future Simple: Structures, usages, mistakes, and examples

As its name suggests, the future simple variation is simple to remember and use. It indicates the events that generally happen in the future.

Structures

How to form a future-simple sentence?

Positive form (+)

S + will + [root form of the verb]
Negative form (-)

S + will not/won’t + [root form of the verb]

Interrogative form (?)

Will/won’t + S + [root form of the verb]?
Question form (?)

(Wh/H) + will/won’t + S + [root form of the verb]?

In the general form, the future simple variation has a simple formula, “will + [root form of the verb],” no matter which person the subject uses or whether it is singular or plural.

Example:

When you want to use the negative form of the future simple, the formula remains “simple” because you only need to put the word “not” after the “will,” followed by [root form of the verb]. Otherwise, you can use the contraction “won’t” instead of “will not.”

Example:

Moving the “will” or “won’t” to the front of the subject is how you ask an interrogative question in the future. There is an exception if you use “will not,” though; you have to follow this structure: Will + S + not + [root form of the verb].

Examples:

You can also include question words (Wh/H) to refer to general questions. 

Examples:

Usages and Conjugations

Here are six cases when you need to use the future simple variation.

  1. You mention a one-time action in the future or an invitation.

A future-simple sentence often features a generic future milestone, including “soon,” “Tonight,” “tomorrow,” “next week/month/year, etc.” “in + a period,” or “in + the future month/year/etc.”

Examples:

  1. You indicate a regularly occurring action in the future.

In this case, you can still use the above future milestones plus adverbs of frequency like often, usually, sometimes, every + time.

Example:

  1. You refer to a simple fact in the future.

The future simple is commonly used in the first conditional sentences when we believe future situations are possible or real. As such, those sentences often have words “if,” “unless,” “as long as,” “in case,” or “as soon as.”

Examples:

  1. You decide at the moment of speaking.

Imagine having a conversation in which you make an instant decision when speaking. There is no plan or intention in advance. Then, you also use the future simple formula.

Example:

  1. You talk about a series of activities happening in the future.

To speak about future activities one after one, you can also use the future simple – for instance: S + will + [root form of the first verb], [root form of the second verb], and [root form of the third verb.]

Example:

  1. Or, you express personal predictions.

You are not sure about future events and activities; thus, you use the future simple variation with opinion words such as “think,” “believe,” “hope,” “suppose,” “probably,” “maybe,” or “supposedly.”

Examples:

Common Mistakes

Although structures and usages of the future are simple and easy to remember, there are a couple of mistakes to avoid.

  1. Using “willn’t” rather than “will not” or “won’t.”

You might be familiar with the shortened form of “not” to be “n’t,” like “don’t,” “doesn’t,” “shouldn’t,” etc.

Nonetheless, English is full of odd quirks, and it is not the case for “will not.” Its shortened form is “won’t.”

  1. Speaking or writing “shall” instead of “will.”

You might have heard of “shall + [root form of the verb]” with a similar meaning to the “will + [root form of the verb].”

Technically, “shall” is the traditional alternative to “will” when the subject is the first person (I or we), in which “shall” sounds more old-fashioned and formal.

  1. Mistaking the future simple and present simple for future events

Interestingly enough, native speakers sometimes use the present simple to indicate a future event instead of the future simple one.

This happens when an event is a future “scheduled” on a timetable or diary. For example, we say, “the train leaves at 9 am tomorrow” rather than “the train will leave at 9 am tomorrow.”

Near Future: Conjugations & Examples

near future

Future Simple: Structures, usages, mistakes, and examples

The next common future tense variation is the near future.

What is it used for?

Structures

How to form a near-future sentence?

Positive form (+)

S + [am/is/are] + going to + [root form of the verb]

Negative form (-)

S + [am/is/are] + not + going to + [root form of the verb]
Interrogative form (?)

Am/is/are + S + (not) + going to + [root form of the verb]?

Question form (?)

(Wh/H) + [am/is/are] + (not) + S + going to + [root form of the verb]?

We use the expression “be going to” followed by the root form of the verb to indicate the idea of events and activities soon. Accordingly, the verb “be” will be conjugated in agreement with the subject – like how we use it in the present simple:

Positive “be”

Negative “be”

Full form

Short form Full form

Short form

I am I’m I am not N/A
We/you/they/

plural nouns + are

You’re/we’re/

they’re

We/you/they/plural nouns + are not We/you/they/plural nouns + aren’t
She/he/it/

singular noun + is

She’s/He’s/It’s She/he/it/

singular noun + is not

She/he/it/

singular noun + isn’t

We also put the verb “be” before the subject regarding the near-future questions.

Examples: 

Usages and Conjugations

  1. You express an intention in the not-too-distant future.

While the future simple is used for the intention in a generic future time, the near future happens very sooner: “tonight” or “tomorrow.” In addition, there is usually a plan or intention beforehand.

  1. You predict with clues.

We use the near future when having certainty or a conviction about the near future. For instance, you look at the dark clouds in the sky and predict that it will rain soon.

Example:

Common mistakes

  1. Forgetting to use the correct form of “be.”

Commonly, you do not use the correct form of “be” in the expression “be going to.”

You can copy the table above for reference next time.

  1. Using “be Ving” and “be going to” interchangeably.

Learners usually mistake the present continuous and near future variations, considering that the present continuous is also used to express future events.

Both formulas indicate that “something is happening” or “something is going to happen” is priorly planned or decided. Nevertheless, the present continuous expresses the fixed plans – both in the near and far future, meaning they are more certain.

Future Continuous: Conjugations & Examples

future tense

Future Continuous: Structures, usages, mistakes, and examples

Structures

How to form a future-continuous sentence?

Positive form (+)

S + will + be + Ving
Negative form (-)

S + will not/won’t + be + Ving

Interrogative form (?)

Will/won’t + S + be + Ving?
Question form (?)

(Wh/H) + will/won’t + S + be + Ving?

The structure combines the future simple and the present continuous. Thus, we use the root form of the verb “be” instead of “am/is/are.”

In terms of the negative or question sentences, we use a similar formula to the future simple.

Usages and Conjugations

Since the formula is a mix of the future simple and the present continuous, can you guess the usages of the future continuous variation?

  1. You refer to an action happening at a specific time in the future.

You use the future continuous sentence to describe future actions at a specific time. That said, the conjugations for this variation are “the certain point in time” and “in the future,” such as “at 10 am tomorrow” or “at this time next week.”

Examples:

  1. You also mention interrupted actions in the future.

Another usage of the future continuous is to describe an action that interrupts another action. The conjugation is often a mix of the future continuous and when clause.

Example:

Common mistakes

  1. Not remembering to use the root form of the verb “be.”

Some learners combine the structures of the future simple and present continuous, like “S + will + is/am/are + Ving.” It is wrong.

  1. Misusing the future continuous and the future present continuous variations.

Since they all continuously indicate events or actions at a specific time, learners also mistake one for another.

Keep reading to understand the use of future present continuous so you will hardly misuse two variations next time.

  1. Using the continuous form for “be” in the future continuous

Have you ever seen a sentence like “I will be being on the bus at 9 am tomorrow”? Then, it is a wrong usage because we do not use the future continuous variation for the verb “be.” The correct form is “I will be on the bus at 9 am tomorrow.”

Future Perfect: Conjugations & Examples

future tense

Future Perfect: Structures, usages, mistakes, and examples

Structures

How to form a future-perfect sentence?

Positive form (+)

S + will + have + [past participle of the verb]
Negative form (-)

S + will not/won’t + have + [past participle of the verb]

Interrogative form (?)

Will/won’t + S + have + [past participle of the verb]
Question form (?)

(Wh/H) + will/won’t + S + have + [past participle of the verb]?

Similarly to the third variation, the future perfect is mixed in the formula – the beginning part from the future simple and the latter from the present perfect.

Here is a summary table for the past participle form of some common irregular verbs:

past tense past tense 3

Usages and Conjugations

You refer to an action completed between the present and some point in the future.

Imagine being invited to a friend’s birthday party this Friday, yet you’re studying late that day for the exam. By the time you get to the party, people will have gone home.

In this context, there is a sequence of actions, and the future perfect indicates what will happen first. As a result, this variation often features prepositions such as “before,” “by the time, or “by + a future time.”

Example:

Common mistakes

  1. Using the variation for continuous or without-deadline actions.

Remember that the future-perfect action must be “completed” between now and then. You should use the generic future simple variation if you mention an action without a deadline.

  1. Adding the word “not” behind the “have.”

Do not use the “haven’t + [past participle of the verb]” formula of the present perfect. Instead, you write or speak “won’t” or “will not” as the negative form of this variation.

Future Perfect Continuous: Conjugations & Examples

future tense

Future Perfect Continuous: Structures, usages, mistakes, and examples

Structures

Here are the structures of the future perfect continuous variation:

How to form a future-perfect-continuous sentence?

Positive form (+)

S + will + have + been + Ving

Negative form (-)

S + will not/won’t + have + been + Ving

Interrogative form (?)

Will/won’t + S + have + been + Ving?

Question form (?)

(Wh/H) + will/won’t + S + have + been + Ving?

Usages and Conjugations

The two variations have the same conjugations, such as “before” and “by + a future time.” However, the future perfect emphasizes the results of actions; meanwhile, the future perfect continuous tense highlights the time of action between the now and then.

Example:

Common mistakes

  1. Also, adding the word “not” behind the “have.”

Again, we remind you to add the “not” behind the auxiliary verb – “will” instead.

  1. Thinking of future perfect and future perfect continuous tenses are the same.

These two variations are not the same. Please refer to the Bonus part down below.

Bonus: Confusing Future Tense Comparison

Future Simple vs. Near Future vs. Present Continuous

A future-simple action is unplanned or unintended; meanwhile, a near-future one indicates an intended activity shortly. The present-continuous action refers to a hard-to-change plan.

Future Perfect vs. Future Perfect Continuous

We can analyze two examples:

In the first sentence, Linda will have done with the studying; meanwhile, the second context emphasizes that she will continue studying without a specific deadline.

It’s Time for Exercise

Our article on future tense has already given you a comprehensive explanation of future variations in English. Now, let’s practice filling in the correct form of the following verbs:

  1. I guess it (rain) … soon.
  2. By the end of 2023, she (work) … at this company for thirty years.
  3. We have prepared snacks and soft drinks since last week and (go) … campaign this Sunday. 
  4. This product is selling like hot cakes, its price (increase) … soon.
  5. You should rest in 1 hour because you (study) … for three hours after that.

Answers:

  1. Will rain (personal prediction)
  2. Will have been working (continuous action in the defined future)
  3. Are going (hard-to-change plan in the near future)
  4. Is going to increase (near future)
  5. Will have been studying (continuous action in the defined future).