Talking about the Future 2
Grammar Activation Pack 13
English has no Future!
In the previous Grammar Activation Packs I have introduced you to the present and the past tenses, along with the simple, continuous, and perfect aspects.
I also mentioned that English has only the two tenses, present and past.
So where does this leave us when we want to talk about the future?
Don’t worry, there are several ways that we can talk about the future, including using will and shall, which is what I am going to explain in this lesson.
Will or Shall for Future
There are two modal auxiliary verbs that we use to mark the future in English.
The first is will which we use with a bare infinitive, that is a verb without to.
- The festivities will start next week.
The second is shall which we also use with a bare infinitive.
- I shall teach you about the future over the next few pages.
Both of these statements are talking about future events.
Will and Shall
Using will or shall with a bare infinitive is the most common way to talk about the future.
Will and shall are commonly used for offers and requests, promises and threats, and for announcing our decisions.
- Shall I do that for you?
- I’ll see you tomorrow.
- She’ll hit him if he keeps annoying her.
- I shall be there, I promise.
Will expresses a willingness to do something or a wish for something.
Shall tends to be used to express an obligation.
Asking for Decisions
We normally use shall to ask for decisions or ask for instructions.
- Shall I leave the door open?
- Shall we watch a movie?
- Let’s go to the cinema, shall we?
- Now what shall we do?
- What time shall we be there?
We do not use will in this way.
Promises and Threats
We use will in promises and threats.
- I promise I’ll be there.
- They will shoot you if you don’t put down the gun.
- You will be fired if you keep being late.
Shall can also be used, but it is less common and sounds a bit old fashioned.
- I shall see you this evening.
- You shall go to the ball.
Decisions Made at the Moment
When we make a decision on the spur of the moment, we generally use will not shall.
If the doorbell rings, you might say, “I’ll get it.”
- A. If you buy it today, there is a 50% discount on the full price.
- B. Okay! I’ll take it!
- A. And, for just €10 more you can have the deluxe version.
- B. Deluxe, eh? Sure, why not? I’ll take the deluxe version, too.
Will plus bare infinitive is used to give predictions or to request information about the future.
- It will be warmer in the next few weeks.
- Will everyone be there?
- When will the swallows arrive?
- The swallows will arrive soon.
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When we have direct evidence or something is already planned, we don’t use will but use going to instead. See the next Grammar Activation Pack for details.
Will is used to say what will happen if something else happens.
- You will be able to talk about the future if you study this Activation Pack.
- If it doesn’t rain this afternoon, I’ll go for a bike ride.
- If I see him, I’ll give him the message.
Will is used in first conditionals which talk about things which could well happen in the future. More about conditionals in a future Grammar Activation Pack.
Giving Orders or Instructions
We normally use will to give orders or instructions.
- Will you please be quiet!
- Will you stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you?
- Bring me the latest figures, will you, Ann?
We do not use shall in this way.
Negative Will for Refusals
The negative of will is will not, often shortened to won’t in speech.
- A. You will eat your peas! B. I won’t!
- You won’t go to the cinema if you don’t do your homework.
- We won’t have bases on the moon in my lifetime.
Won’t can also be used to form polite requests.
Won’t you sit here for a while?
Negative Shall for Refusals
The negative of shall is shall not, often shortened to shan’t in speech.
- A. You shall eat your peas! B. I shan’t!
- You shan’t go to the cinema if you don’t do your homework.
- We shan’t have bases on the moon in my lifetime.
Shan’t is much less commonly used than won’t in modern English.
Not Rooted in Present
We use will to talk about future events which are not rooted in the present.
- Do you think I will understand the movie?
- Let’s hope the new secretary will be efficient.
Here we are not talking about the present, just the future. The sentences are not rooted in the present.
If things are rooted in the present, we prefer going to or the present continuous.
- I’m going to the cinema tonight.
- We’re getting a new secretary.
Here decisions already exist in the present so the sentences are rooted in the present.
Future Time Indicators
Will and shall can be used with the future time indicators such as at, on, in, next and this that we looked at in Grammar Activation Pack 12 – Future 1.
- I will be there at 7.
- We will start work on Monday.
- We shall see in a week.
- He will do it next week.
- I will do it this week.
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