Read this paragraph from Rachel's letter to her aunt and uncle.
This is my last year at college, so I'll be leaving in June. And I've already got a job! In September I'm starting work at a bank in London. So I'll be free for most of the summer. I'm going to spend six weeks travelling around the US. My friend Vicky is coming with me. (She finishes college at the same time as me.) We're really looking forward to the trip. We might go to Canada too. Vicky has friends in Toronto.
When we talk about the present or the past, we use verb forms to say what is happening now, what happened yesterday, and so on. Vicky has friends in Toronto.
We know about things in the present and in the past because they are already real. But talking about the future is more of a problem. There is no single form in English that we can always use for the future. There are many different ways of talking about the future, depending on how we see a future event. It may be something that is fairly sure to happen, but on the other hand it may be just a plan or an intention, or it may be something that you think will happen but you can't be sure about.
B Verb forms used for the future
Here are some examples of verb forms used to express the future. Be going to > 24 I'm going to spend six weeks in the US. (an intention)
Will > 23 A I'll be free for most of the summer, (neutral future)
Present continuous > 26A I'm starting work in September, (an arrangement) Present simple > 26B She finishes college at the same time, (a timetable)
Will be doing > 28 I'll be leaving in June, (in the course of events)
Very often there is more than one possible form that could be used.
She'll finish college in June. She finishes college in June.
She's finishing college in June. She'll be finishing college in June. Rachel could use any of these in her letter.
We often use will as a neutral way of expressing the future, but it is not 'the future tense'. It is only one of the forms we can use. In some situations will is not the right word.
After college I'm going to travel around the US. Here Rachel is saying what she intends to do in the future. We cannot use will here.
D Being sure and unsure
We cannot always be sure about the future. To show that we are unsure we can use might or could (see Unit 46).
We might go to Canada. It could snow soon.
To show how sure or unsure we are, we often use phrases like I'm sure, definitely, I expect, I (don't) think and probably.
I'm sure it'll be all right. We're definitely going to be at the meeting.
I expect everyone will be going home. Rachel will probably be late.
I think I'm going to sneeze. I don't think Tom's coming tonight.
1 Present, past and future (A-B)
Rachel has received a letter from a friend of hers who left college last year. Find the sentences which refer to the future and write them below.
I'm really enjoying my work at the store. I'm learning lots about the job. Soon they're moving me to another store - in Birmingham. They told me about it last week. I'll be leaving here at the end of the month. I feel a bit sad about that. Luckily they'll find a flat for me.
The time is going very quickly. I've been here three months. The training programme finishes next summer. 1 like the work, and I want to stay with the company. They'll decide about that next year. I'm just hoping for the best.
► Soon they're moving me to another store — in Birmingham.