When we talk about the future tense, we explain how to use “will” and “be going to” to express future time. Our students often do not realize that there are other ways to express future time.
a. The Simple Present to Express Future Time
When something is scheduled to happen, we use the simple present instead of the future.
The train leaves at 7:30 this evening.
She retires next month.
Tomorrow is Thursday.
The president is to make a statement tomorrow.
When we use “be to” to express the future, it is more formal.
You are to take three tablets a day.
He is not to stay here for the weekend.
b. The Present Continuous to Express Future Time
Future time can also be expressed by the present continuous tense.
I’m having dinner with her tomorrow.
He’s taking his exam next week.
What’s Maria doing tomorrow?
Are you working this Saturday?
c. The Future Tense and Time Clauses
If we talk about the past, we use the past tense in both the main clause and the time clause.
When Judy got home, her hair was still wet.
However, when we talk about the future, we cannot use the future tense in both.
When Judy will get home, her hair will still be wet. (incorrect)
When Judy gets home, her hair will still be wet. (correct)
Students need to be told that we use the simple present tense instead of the future tense in the time clause when we express the future.
We often use “when” to introduce a time clause, but we also use other words to introduce a time clause.
It won’t be long before the rain stops.
I’ll have lunch after I finish my work.
I’ll wait here until she comes.
as soon as
I’ll return it to you as soon as you come back.
The future tense is simple and easy to understand, but don’t forget to mention to students that it can sometimes be replaced by the simple present and the present continuous.
- Ron Lee