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The Simple Future Tense

If you haven't yet, please be sure to learn or review the Simple Present first. It will make this page much easier for you.

  ↓  Table of Contents - click on the link to go directly to its section

  1. What is the simple future for?
  2. Will vs. [be] going to
  3. Negative (-) sentences
  4. Question (?) sentences
  5. Negative (-) and question (?) together
  6. Future with past

What is the simple future for?

Artwork of a couple on Mars wearing space suits and holding hands

See the above picture? This is not something that is happening in the present. It did not happen in the past, either. The picture is what (I hope!) we will be able to do someday after the present. We call the time after the present "the future." We can write future sentences like so:

Simple Present: People live in Mars.
Simple Future: People will live in Mars.

The future can happen much sooner, as long as it is after the present! Here is another example:

Screen shot of the coin toss from 'College Football USA '96' for the Sega Genesis
Simple Present: The game starts after the coin toss.
Simple Future: The game will start after the coin toss.

People living in Mars may happen 10 or more years in the future (I hope!). Football games start a few minutes after coin tosses.

Making simple future sentences is very easy. Just add will between the subject and verb of the sentence. Do not use subject-verb agreement.

One last thing - if the simple present sentence uses a [be] verb, whatever it is (am, is, or are), change it to be. For example:

Joe is cold. Joe will be cold.

Section Review

Change these sentences from the simple present to the simple future.

  1. We read literature every day.  ANSWER 

  2. Lauren skates in the morning.  ANSWER 

  3. Matt and Jeff go to the movies.  ANSWER 

  4. My mother is angry.  ANSWER 

  5. She uses her phone.  ANSWER 

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Will vs. [be] going to

Will isn't the only thing we can add to change a sentence to the simple future. There is also [be] going to.
Jackie Chan making a funny 'Wait, what?' face.
We could write the simple future for this photo two ways:

Jackie Chan will feel confused.
or
Jackie Chan is going to feel confused.

For now you can see that I changed the [be] to is so it matches the subject (Jackie Chan). That difference aside, you can see that both sentences are written in the same pattern:
Subject future verb

So how do we know when to use will and when to use [be] going to?

Use will for...

Choices - usually last-minute decisions
President Obama ordering at Five Guys
"I will have a bacon cheeseburger with everything on it."

Predictions - what will happen in the future?
Little boy wearing adult firefighter uniform with a determined look
Billy will be a firefighter when he grows up.

Promises - made to oneself or others
Woman holding a piggy bank
"I will save money for a new car."

Volunteering - agreeing to help without much thinking about it
Dog holding down the water fountain handle so a girl can drink from it
"I will help you drink from the water fountain."

Note: will can be shortened to 'll. For example: she will she'll. You may do that for casual situations, but keep the full spelling for more formal situations. As explained in the Simple Present page, it is more commonly used with pronouns rather than regular and proper nouns.

Use [be] going to for...

Expectations - decided by what is going on at the moment
A wide open football receiver is about to catch a pass
Steve is wide open and the ball has been thrown perfectly. He is going to catch it.

Plans - what one intends to do
A girl and a dog sitting in the back of a station wagon full of camping equipment
"We are going to go on a camping trip to Lake Placid."

Note 1: Did you see going and go in the last sentence? The future one never drops the -ing as a simple future marker. The go is a verb. You must use both! The sentence may look a little strange, but it is correct English.

Note 2: [be] can be shortened to 'm (for am), 're (for are), and 's (for is). For example: she is going to she's going to. You may do that for casual situations, but keep the full spelling for more formal situations. As explained in the Simple Present page, it is more commonly used with pronouns rather than regular and proper nouns.

Section Review

will or [be] going to? Don't forget to change the [be] to match the subject.

  1. It __________ stop snowing next month.  ANSWER 

  2. The Lions lead the Tigers 53-0 with 2 minutes left. The Lions _________ win the game.  ANSWER 

  3. Dr. Smith __________ retire after she turns 65 next week.  ANSWER 

  4. Dad told Mom, "Don't worry love. I _________ pick up the kids from karate class tonight."  ANSWER 

  5. Lindsay tells the little boy, "I _________ get that cereal box high on the shelf for you."  ANSWER 

  6. I __________ have the super premium gasoline for my car, please.  ANSWER 

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Negative (-) sentences

Changing simple future sentences to negative (-) is done in two different ways, depending on if you are using will or [be] going to.

-For will, just add  not  right after it. For example:

He will play chess. He will  not  play chess.

-For [be] going to, put  not  between [be] and going to. Let's see how this works:

He is going to play chess. He is  not  going to play chess.

For both ways, as usual, you can shorten  not  to  n't  for casual situations. Keep in mind that will is changed to wo to make won't . Let's look at our example sentences again:

He will play chess. He won't  play chess.
and
He is going to play chess. He isn't  going to play chess.

Note: Just so you know, you can't make two consecutive contractions such as this: He'sn't going to play chess.

Boy refusing to eat broccoli. We often see won't  when someone is refusing to do something. While that is a common usage, it is not the only meaning. won't  can also be used to show that something will not happen without showing any upset feeling.

"I won't  eat that!"

This boy is refusing to eat broccoli.

Male college student sadly shrugging to a female classmate.
"I'm sorry, but I won't  study with you tonight. My ultimate frisbee team has practice."

This student is not refusing to study with his classmate. He just can't, because his team has practice that evening.

Section Review

Change the sentences below to negative (-).

  1. Hank is going to pitch a no-hitter.  ANSWER 

  2. The girls will meet us at the mall.  ANSWER 

  3. Mr. Blake will allow his students to eat during the test.  ANSWER 

  4. The new iPhone is going to be expensive.  ANSWER 

  5. Patricia will finish her essay tonight.  ANSWER 

  6. Natasha and Boris are going to go to Russia this year.  ANSWER 

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Future questions (?)

We can ask questions in the simple future tense by two says, depending on if we are using will or [be] going to.

-For will, just move it left to the very beginning of the sentence! For example:

He will play chess. → Will he play chess?

-For [be] going to, move the [be] left to the beginning of the sentence. For example:

He is going to play chess. → Is he going to play chess?

Section Review

Change the sentences below to questions (?).

  1. Hank is going to pitch a no-hitter.  ANSWER 

  2. The girls will meet us at the mall.  ANSWER 

  3. Mr. Blake will allow his students to eat during the test.  ANSWER 

  4. The new iPhone is going to be expensive.  ANSWER 

  5. Patricia will finish her essay tonight.  ANSWER 

  6. Boris and Natasha are going to go to Russia this year.  ANSWER 

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Negative (-) and question (?) together

If you have read the similar section in the simple present page, you will know why sentences may have (-) and (?) together.  not  (which can be shortened to  n't  for casual situations) are placed in simple future sentences depending on if will or [be] going to is used. Keep in mind that  not  and  n't  are placed differently.

-For will, remember that if you use will with  n't  together, it gets changed to won't . If you are using  not , put it right after the subject. You can see how they are used in the examples below:

(+) Mom will be upset.
(-) Mom will  not  be uspet.
(?) Will Mom be upset?
(-?) Won't  Mom be upset?
or
(-?) Will Mom  not  be upset?

-For [be] going to, move  n't  next to [be]. Once again,  not  is put right after the subject. Let's see some examples:

(+) Mom is going to be upset.
(-) Mom is  not  going to be uspet.
(?) Is Mom going to be upset?
(-?) Isn't  Mom going to be upset?
or
(-?) Is Mom  not  going to be upset?

Note: won't  in (-?) sentences is not a refusal most of the time. It is still possible to have a refusal in (-?) sentence. For example:
Sheldon won't  come home. → Won't  Sheldon come home?
In that second sentence, I am asking if Sheldon is refusing to come home.

Section Review

Change these statements (+) below to negative/question (-?) sentences.

  1. Hank is going to pitch a no-hitter.  ANSWER 

  2. The girls will meet us at the mall.  ANSWER 

  3. Mr. Blake will allow his students to eat during the test.  ANSWER 

  4. The new iPhone is going to be expensive.  ANSWER 

  5. Patricia will finish her essay tonight.  ANSWER 

  6. Boris and Natasha are going to go to Russia this year.  ANSWER 

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Future with past

Parody of the Evolution of Man, with the last two being Man crouched over a PC, then sitting on the floor huddled with a mobile phone.

Believe it or not, you can use the simple future in simple past sentences. Well, kind of - will and [be] going to get changed to their past forms. See how the future is changed to the past:

Simple Future: I will text Helen tonight.
Simple Past: I told Helen that I would text her last night.

will is always changed to would.

Simple Future: Billy and I are going to study together tonight.
Simple Past: Yesterday I told my father that Billy and I were going to study together.

[be] is changed to was or were depending on the subject of the [be]. See this table if you forget the rules.

Note 1: This isn't really simple future, but to make your English grammar even better, I'll add this to the section review - can for the simple present is changed for the simple past as could. Here's a quick example:
I think I can dunk a basketball. → At the game last Saturday, I thought I could dunk a basketball.

Note 2: The future-to-past red/blue color you see on this page is not used by the RTS. I made it up to make this section a little easier to understand.

Section Review

Change one of the words in the sentences below to the past. A few answers may not be grammatically complete sentences, but this is just to get you used to changing future and present words to the past.

  1. Paul is going to take today off.  ANSWER 

  2. I am going to visit my boyfriend.  ANSWER 

  3. The cat will take a nap.  ANSWER 

  4. My sister can volunteer at the animal shelter.  ANSWER 

  5. The Patriots are going to draft the player from Gallaudet.  ANSWER 

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©opyright 2017 by Richard Knopf
Updated April 19, 2015
Credits
-Mars -Jackie Chan -Obama at Five Guys -Piggy Bank -Water Fountain -Receiver -Family Trip -Broccoli -Shrug -Devolution