Will, going to and the present continuous – 3 common future forms

Do you know how to talk about the future in English?
In this video we compare Do you know how to talk about the future in English?
We look at how we talk about facts and predictions, plans and making decisions and you’ll see lots of examples future forms in action.

Click here to learn some phrases we use to talk about the future.
Click here to learn about some verbs we often use to talk about the future.

Will, going to and the present continuous

We had a request from a viewer for this video.
Moroccan geographer said the most difficult thing about English for him is the future.
He said “I don’t know when to use “will” or “be going to” or the present continuous. It’s awful!”
They’re all common ways to talk about the future.
And they’re tricky because sometimes their uses overlap, and sometimes they don’t.
So we’re going to to look at the three basics – facts and predictions, plans and making decisions.
And we have a story for you so you can see them in action.
Let’s start with facts and predictions.

Welcome. I am Madame Victoire and I will unlock the mysteries of the future.
How much do you charge?
You get three predictions for three hundred dollars.
That’s a lot of money.
Three predictions with 100% accuracy and a money back guarantee.
Oh, so if your predictions are wrong, I get my money back.
Yes. It won’t cost you a penny. But I’m never wrong.
OK. I’ll do it. But here’s the thing. I have a very important job interview tomorrow morning …
Shhh. Let me see… Hmmm, I see black clouds. It’s going to rain tomorrow.
Really? The weather forecast says it’s going to be sunny.
Oh you’re right. The ball was a little dirty. Tomorrow will be sunny.

I don’t trust Madame Victoire.
She says she’s 100% accurate.
We’ll see about that.

Facts and predictions: will and going to

OK, let’s look at some of the things she said.
We often use the verb ‘will’ to state facts about the future and make predictions. Will is a modal verb and the negative is won’t – will – not – won’t.

It won’t cost you a penny.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear ‘will’ when we’re speaking fast because we use contractions: I’ll, you’ll, we’ll, they’ll, he’ll, she’ll and it’ll. It’ll be sunny tomorrow.
But with facts and predictions ‘will’ isn’t the only verb we use. We also use ‘be going to’. It’s the present continuous form of the verb ‘go’ and it’s very common. Notice the pronunciation again. When we’re speaking fast we don’t say going to, we say gonna.
So here’s the question. Is there a difference in meaning with ‘will’ and ‘be going to’?
A lot of the time, there’s no difference. We can say ‘will’ or ‘going to’ and it means the same thing.
A mistake students often make is they use ‘will’ too much. It doesn’t sound natural.
And also there are some situations where we don’t say ‘will’.
If a prediction is based on present evidence, we say ‘going to’ – not will.
We saw an example of that too.

Hmmm, I see black clouds. It’s going to rain tomorrow.

The evidence was the black clouds, so she said ‘It’s gonna rain.’
She saw that rain was on its way.
It would sound odd to say ‘will’ here.
‘Going to’ is more natural because she’s looking at evidence. She can see the rain coming.
Here’s another example. I’m gonna have a problem with that fortune teller.
That’s your prediction?
Yes, and I’m saying ‘gonna’, because I saw signs that she wasn’t very good.
Her crystal ball was dirty.
Exactly, so I’m predicting that she’s going to be a problem.
Then let’s see what happens next.

Am I going to get the job?
Oh dear. Oh dear.
What do you see? Is there a problem?
There’ll be a lot of traffic on the highway tomorrow. How are you getting to that job interview?
I’m walking.
Well don’t take the highway.
I’m not taking the highway. I’m going on foot.
Just as well.

Future plans: going to and the present continuous

We heard another prediction there: There’ll be a lot of traffic on the highway.
But there’s always a lot of traffic on the highway. Anyone could predict that.
True. OK, we heard another future form there.

How are you getting to that job interview?
I’m walking.

We heard the present continuous. We often use this form to talk about future plans and arrangements.
If it’s not clear that we mean the future and not now, we state a time.
How are you getting to your job interview tomorrow?
We use ‘going to’ and the present continuous to talk about future plans.
And again, in lots of situations, you can use either.
So is there a difference in meaning with these forms? We use ‘going to’ to talk about intentions – things we intend to do. And we use the present continuous to talk about arrangements and appointments with other people. But many future events are both intentions and arrangements, so in a lot of cases either form works.
But if the verb is ‘go’, we normally use the present continuous and not ‘be going to’. We heard an example of that.

I’m going on foot.

You could also say ‘I’m going to go on foot.’ It’s grammatically OK, but it doesn’t sound so natural. With the verb ‘go’ we generally use the present continuous.
We’ll say things like I’m going to the shops. I’m going by bus. I’m going home.
Yes, we could say ‘I’m going to go to the shops’ but it sounds repetitive.
We generally avoid it. Use the present continuous with the verb ‘go’ instead.
Are we going to see what happens next in the story?
Yeah, OK.

I need to know about my job interview. What questions are they going to ask me?
Oh this is interesting. Well I never!
Is it good news?
Yes. Do you have shares in Acme Corp?
No.
Well buy some.
I can’t. I just gave you all my money.
That’s a shame. They’re going up tomorrow. Well, that’s it then.
But you haven’t told me about my job interview.
Just let make a note of that. Buy Acme Corp ….
You haven’t answered any of my questions. You’re a fraud.
I am not!
I want my money back.
No. You’ve had three predictions and they’re 100% accurate.
I’ll call the police.
Oh no. No, no. All right. I’ll give you another one.

Decisions: will and going to

She’s a fraud.
But she offered to give you another prediction.
Yeah, but only when I threatened to call the cops.
I’ll call the police.
Oh no. No, no. All right. I’ll give you another one.
Notice she said ‘I’ll give you another one’. There’s a difference between ‘will’ and ‘going to’ when we’re making decisions.
If we’re making a spontaneous decision, we use will, not going to.
A spontaneous decision is a decision we’re making at the time of speaking.
We saw another example of that earlier.
It won’t cost you a penny.
OK. I’ll do it.
Jay said ‘I’ll do it there’ – so he used ‘will’ not ‘going to’.
I made the decision on the spot.
But if we’re talking about a decision we made earlier, we don’t say will.
We say ‘be going to’ or we use the present continuous.

Well don’t take the highway.
I’m not taking the highway. I’m going on foot.
Just as well.

So at the moment we’re making a decision, we use ‘will’.
But after we’ve made the decision it becomes our intention or plan.
And then we use ‘going to’ or the present continuous because the decision’s already made and now it’s a plan.
It’s logical if you think about it.
I think we need a review.
We use ‘be going to’ and ‘will’ to talk about future facts and to make predictions. In most situations we can say ‘will’ or ‘going to’. It doesn’t matter which one.
But if there’s evidence or if there are signs that something is on its way, we generally use ‘be going to’.
We also use ‘be going to’ to talk about future plans. And we use the present continuous to talk about plans as well, especially if we’re talking about arrangements and appointments with other people.
If we’re making a decision at the time of speaking, we say ‘will’. And if we’re talking about a decision that was made in the past, we use ‘going to’.
So those are the key rules we follow with ‘will’, ‘be going to’ and the present continuous.
It’s not so hard, is it?
Just remember not to use ‘will’ all the time because sometimes ‘will’ doesn’t work.
Is that it then?
Yes. Well, we still need to finish the story
Before we do, if you’ve enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel.
And maybe you can share it with a friend who’ll find it useful too.
Let’s finish the story then.

Tell me about my job interview. What’s going to happen?
You don’t need to worry about your job interview.
Thank goodness for that!
In fact they’re going to call you in three seconds to cancel it.
Why?
They’ve already hired someone else.

Click here to learn some phrases we use to talk about the future.
Click here to learn about some verbs we often use to talk about the future.

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