English Grammar in Context – Tense Timelines, Mindmaps, Writing Tips, and More...
We all love to talk about the future - the things we are going to do and the people we are going to meet; or the places we would like to visit or the concerts and movies we are looking forward to seeing. Sometimes the future in question is much closer, and we talk about our plans for the weekend or our schedule for a work project or even just a study plan for upcoming exams.
In this section, we will show you the different ways you can talk about plans, schedules, timetables, and future intentions, and we'll cover all the helpful tenses that will make you sound like a native English speaker. The first thing to keep in mind is that most English speakers don't always use the structure of the Future tenses to talk about the future. For example, Future Simple (I will...) is generally used to talk about impulsive or impromptu decisions, or to emphasise an intention, such as 'I will tidy my room, stop shouting!' You can talk about things you intend to do in the future, or things you promise to do, but they're generally decisions made on the spot, with no planning and little forethought.
1. Future Continuous
When it comes to plans, Future Continuous has a slightly different characteristic than Future Simple, using the following form
'I will (or I'll) + be + verb+ing'
to emphasise a predicted status at a particular time in the future. Figure 1 shows three examples on a timeline taken from our write-up on the Future Continuous. However, when we talk about plans using the Future Continuous, it's usually because we want to explain something or answer a question. Have a look at these three examples first, and imagine what other clauses could be attached to them:
Fig. 1 Future Continuous Example Clauses
In these following examples, the information you want to give about your future status is associated with another future plan.
'I'll be studying at the weekend, so I can't go to the party.'
The context here is that you know the party is on (it has been planned), and you are stating why you can't attend.
'I'll be having dinner at 6, but I'll see you afterwards.'
In this sentence, plans have been made to meet up in the evening, and you are expressing your intent to join someone after your dinner. The Future Continuous is used in both cases to say what you will be doing at a particular time in terms of explaining 1. why you can't do something else; and 2. why you will be delayed.
So you can see that the Future Continuous is not used to make plans, but it is used to discuss plans already made.