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Fundamentals of English Grammar - Chapter 3: Future Time

3-1 Expressing Future Time: Be Going To and Will

Future

  • (a) I am going to leave at nine tomorrow morning.
    (b) I will leave at nine tomorrow morning.

    Be going to and will are used to express future time.
    Examples (a) and (b) have the same meaning.

    Sometimes will and be going to express different meanings.

  • (c) Sam is in his office his morning.
    (d) Ann was in her office this morning at eight, but now she's at a meeting.
    (e) Bob is going to be in his office this morning after his dentist appointment.

    Today, tonight, and this + morning, afternoon, evening, week etc., can express present, past, or future time, as in (c) through (e).

NOTE: The use of shall(with I or we) to express future time is possible but is infrequent and quit formal; for example: I shall leave at nine tomorrow morning. We shall leave at ten tomorrow morning.

3-2 Forms with Be Going To

  • (a) We are going to be late.
    (b) She's going to come tomorrow.
    INCORRECT: She's going to comes tomorrow.

    Be going to is followed by the simple form of the verb, as in (a) and (b).

  • (c) Am I going to be late? / Is he, she, it going to be late? / Are they, we, you going to be late?

    QUESTION FORM: be + subject + going to

  • (d) I am not going to be late. / He, she, It is not going to be late. / They, We, You are not going to be late.

    NEGATIVE FORM: be + not + going to

  • (e) "Hurry up! We're gonna be late!"

    Be going to is more common in speaking and informal writing than in formal writing. In informal speaking, it is sometimes pronounced "gonna". "Gonna" is not usually a written form.

3-3 Forms with Will

  • STATEMENT
    I, You, She, He, It, We, They will come tomorrow.

  • NEGATIVE
    I, You, She, He, It, We, They will not (won't) come tomorrow.

  • QUESTION
    Will I, You, She, He, It, We, They come tomorrow?

  • SHORT ANSWER
    Yes, I, You, She, He, It, We, They Will.*
    No, I, You, She, He, It, We, They won't.

  • CONTRACTIONS
    I'll / she'll / we''ll / you'll / he''ll /they'll / it'll

    Will is usually contracted with pronouns in both speech and informal writing.

    Bob + will = "Bob'll"
    the teacher + will = "the teacher'll"

    Will is often contracted with nouns in speech, but usually not in writing.

3-4 Certainty About the Future

100% sure

  • (a) I will be in class tomorrow.
    OR
    I am going to be in class tomorrow.

    In (a): The speaker used will or be going to because he feels sure about his future activity. He is stating a fact about the future.

90% sure

  • (b) Po will probably be in class tomorrow.
    OR
    Po is probably going to be in class tomorrow.

    (c) Anna probably won't be in class tomorrow.
    OR
    Anna probably isn't going to be in class tomorrow.

    In (b): The speaker uses probably to say that he expects Po to be in class tomorrow, but he is not 100% sure. He's almost sure, but not completely sure.
    Word order with probably:
    (1) in a statement, as in (b):
    helping verb + probably
    (2) with a negative verb, as in (c):
    probably + helping verb

50% sure

  • (d) Ali may come to class tomorrow.
    OR
    Ali may not come to class tomorrow.
    I don't know what he's going to do.

    May expresses a future possibility: maybe something will happen, and maybe it won't happen.
    In (d): The speaker is saying that maybe Ali will come to class, or maybe he won't come to class. The speaker is guessing.

    (e) Maybe Ali will come to class, and maybe he won't.
    OR
    Maybe Ali is going to come to class, and maybe he isn't.

    Maybe + will/be going to gives the same meaning as may.
    Examples (d) and (e) have the same meaning.
    Maybe comes at the beginning of a sentence.

3-5 Be going To vs. Will

  • (a) She is going to succeed because she works hard.
    (b) SHe will succeed because she works hard.

    Be going to and will mean the same when they are used to make predictions about the future.
    Examples (a) and (b) have the same meaning.

  • (c) I bought some wood because I am going to build a bookcase for my apartment.

    Be going to (but not will) is used to express a prior plan (i.e., a plan made before the moment of speaking).
    In (c): The speaker plans to build a bookcase.

  • (d) This chair is too heavy for you to carry alone. I'll help you.

    Will (but not be going to) is used to express a decision the speaker makes at the moment of speaking.
    In (d): The speaker decides or volunteers to help at the immediate present moment; he did not have a prior plan or intention to help.

3-6 Expressing the Future in Time Clauses and If-Clauses

  • (a) Before I go to class tomorrow, I'm going to eat breakfast.
    (b) I'm going to eat breakfast before I go to class tomorrow.

    In (a) and (b): before I go to class tomorrow is a future time clause
    before / after / when / as soon as / until / while + subject and verb = a time clause

  • (c) Before I go home tonight, I'm going to stop at the market.
    (d) I'm going to eat dinner at 6:00 tonight. After I eat dinner, I'm going to study in my room.
    (e) I'll give Rita your message when I see her.
    (f) It's raining right now. As soon as the rain stops, I'm going to walk downtown.
    (g) I'll stay home until the rain stops.
    (h) While you're at school tomorrow, I'll be at work.

    The simple present is used in a future time clause.
    Will and be going to are NOT used in a future time clause.

    INCORRECT: Before I will go to class, i'm going to eat breakfast.

    INCORRECT: Before I am going to go to class tomorrow, I'm going to eat breakfast.

    All of the example sentences (c) through (h) contain future time clauses.

  • (i) Maybe it will rain tomorrow. If it rains tomorrow, I'm going to stay home.

    In (i): If it rains tomorrow is an if-clause.
    If + subject and verb = an if-clause

    When the meaning is future, the simple present (not will or be going to) is used in an if-clause.

3-7 Using the Present Progressive to Express Future Time

  • (a) Tim is going to come to the party tomorrow.
    (b) Tim is coming to the party tomorrow.

    (c) We're going to go to a movie tonight.
    (d) We're going to a movie tonight.

    (e) I'm going to stay home this evening.
    (f) I'm staying home this evening.

    (g) Ann is going to fly to Chicago next week.
    (h) Ann is flying to Chicago next week.

    The present progressive can be used to express future time. Each pair to example sentences has the same meaning.

    The present progressive describes definite plan for the future, plans that were made before the moment of speaking.

    A future meaning for the present progressive is indicated either by future time words (e.g., tomorrow) or by the situation.*

  • (i) Your're going to laugh when you hear this joke.
    (j) INCORRECT: You're laughing when you hear this joke.

    The present progressive is NOT used for predictions about the future.

    In (i): The speaker is prediction a future event.
    In (j): The present progressive is not possible;
    laughing is a prediction, not a planned future event.

*COMPARE: Present situation: Look! Mary's coming. Do you see her?
Future situation: Are you planning to come to the party? Mary's coming. So is Alex.

3-8 Using the Simple Present to Express Future Time

  • (a) My plane arrives at 7:35 tomorrow evening.
    (b) Tim's new job starts next week.
    (c) The semester ends in two more weeks.
    (d) There is a meeting at the tomorrow morning.

    The simple present can express future time when events are on a definite schedule or timetable.

    Only a few verbs are used in the simple present to express future time. The most common are arrive, leave, start, begin, end, finish, open, close, be.

  • (e) INCORRECT: I wear my new suit to the wedding next week.
    CORRECT: I am wearing / am going to wear my new suit to the wedding next week.

    Most verbs CANNOT be used in the simple present to express future time. For example, In (e): The verb wear does not express an event on a schedule or timetable. It cannot be used in the simple present to express future time.

3-9 Immediate Future: Using Be About To

(a) Ann's bags are packed, and she is wearing her cost. She is about to leave for the airport.
(b) Shhh. The movie is about to begin.

The idiom be about to do something expresses an activity that will happen in the immediate future, usually within minutes or seconds.

In (a): Ann is going to leave sometime in the next few minutes.
In (b): The movie is going to start in the next few minutes.

3-10 Parallel Verbs

  • (a) Jim makes his bed and cleans up his room every morning.
    (b) Anita called and told me about her new job.

    Often a subject has two verbs that are connected by and. We say that the two verbs are parallel:
    V + and + V
    makes and cleans = parallel verbs

  • (c) Ann is cooking dinner and (is) talking on the phone at the same time.
    (d) I will stay home and (will) study tonight.
    (e) I am going to stay home and (am going to study tonight.

    It is not necessary to repeat a helping verb (an auxiliary verb) when two verbs are the same tense and are connected by and.

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