There are a number of different ways of referring to the future in English. It is important to remember that we are expressing more than simply the time of the action or event. Obviously, any future tense will always refer to a time later than now, but it may also express our attitude to the future event.

It is clear from these examples that several tenses are used to express the future. The future tense section shows the form and function of each of these uses of future tenses.

Future with be going to + verb

We usually use be going to + verb to talk about a definite future plan. Plans are things we can decide for ourselves. We think about them in advance. Usually we can control them.

I’m going to cook barbecue chicken for dinner tomorrow night.

(It’s my choice. I have already decided what to cook.)

Check Point:

✓ We don’t usually use will to talk about future plans unless the plans are very formal or the plan is possible, but not definite.

We will probably eat at about eight o’clock.

What is a time clause?

Time clauses are preceded by adverbs or adverb phrases which show that they represent a time.

Examples of these adverbs or adverb phrases are: whenbeforeafteras soon asuntil.
A time clause shows that an event will happen at a certain time. Although they have a subject, verb and object, these clauses simply point to a time, similar to saying at 7 o’clock.

We use the present tense to talk about future times.

The future tense is used in the main clause.

The present simple tense is used in the time clause.

When two clauses are joined by adverbs of time or adverb phrases, the future form should not be repeated.

Tom will turn off the lights when he leaves the office. (Not when he will leave).

will tidy the living-room before I go to bed. (Not before I will go).

She will go running after it stops raining. (Not after it will stop raining.)

will not go home until I finish the report. (NOT until I will finish).

Jane will call her mother as soon as she arrives at the airport. (Not as soon as she will arrive).
Time clauses with reference to the future can also be introduced by other expressions such as: once, immediately, the moment, the minute, the day, by the time.

Tony will call the restaurant the moment he gets home.

I’ll contact you once I receive an estimate.

You will be notified the minute your order arrives.

It will be dark by the time we arrive home.

The time clause may come before or after the main clause with no change in meaning.

The moment I hear the doorbell I will put on my coat.

will put on my coat the moment I hear the doorbell.

The day you graduate your mother will be very happy.

Your mother will be very happy the day you graduate.

All of the following ideas can be expressed using different tenses:

Simple prediction: There will be snow in many areas tomorrow.

Arrangements: I’m meeting Jim at the airport.

Plans and intentions: We’re going to spend the summer abroad.

Time-tabled events: The plane takes off at 3 a.m.

Prediction based on present evidence: I think it’s going to rain!

Willingness: We’ll give you a lift to the cinema.

An action in progress in the future: This time next week I’ll be sun-bathing.

An action or event that is a matter of routine: You’ll be seeing John in the office tomorrow, won’t you?

Obligation: You are to travel directly to London.

An action or event that will take place immediately or very soon: The train is about to leave.

Projecting ourselves into the future and looking back at a completed action: A month from now he will have finished all his exams.