Oliver and Alfie decide to enter a bike race.

We have different ways of talking about the future. We often use going to (+ infinitive), the present continuous (to be + -ing) or will (+ infinitive). The structure we use depends on the function of what we want to say, whether we are talking about arrangements, plans, predictions, etc..

I thought will was the future tense in English.

It’s one of the ways of talking about the future, but there are a few others. Let’s look at will to start with. We use will / won’t (= will not) + the infinitive for predictions about the future.

Oliver’ll be back soon.
We won’t be ready.
Do you think it’ll rain this afternoon?

We also use will when we decide something at the moment of speaking.

(The doorbell rings) I’ll get it.

So, you sometimes use the verb think before will?

Yes, that’s very common. We also use: don’t think, expect, be + sure.

I’m sure you’ll have a good time.

You said will is used for decisions made at the moment of speaking. What about decisions made before the moment of speaking?

Then we can use either the present continuous or going to (+ infinitive).

Amy’s coming round.
We’re going to watch a film – want to join us?
What are you doing this evening?    

Is there a difference between them?

We use the present continuous more for arrangements with other people and be + going to + infinitive for intentions. Sometimes it’s important to choose the right structure, but often we could use either because many events are both arrangements and intentions.

Amy’s coming round. (= arrangement between Amy and Daisy)
Amy’s going to come round. (= Amy’s intention)
I’m going to clean my room tonight. (= intention)
I’m cleaning my room tonight. (not an arrangement)

So could I say 'I’m going to go to the cinema with Alex'?

Yes, that’s correct. But we usually avoid saying going to go, just because it doesn’t sound very elegant. We normally use the present continuous with go.

I’m going to the cinema with Alex.

And 'I will go to the cinema with Alex'?

No. We don’t use will for arrangements or intentions if the decision was made before the moment of speaking.

Oh, yes, you told me that before. Anything else?

Yes, there’s another use of going to. We use it for predictions too, especially when you can see something happening or about to happen.

Look out! You’re going to spill that coffee.

Can you use going to for other predictions?

Yes, sometimes both will and going to can be used.

I think the Green Party will win the election.
I think the Green Party are going to win the election.

OK, and one last thing! Is it correct to say, ‘When’s the race?’ That’s present simple, isn’t it?

Yes. You can use present simple for timetabled events.

My plane leaves at 4pm tomorrow.
The match starts at 8pm.

Phew! So sometimes you can use going to or the present continuous and sometimes you can use will or going to. And you can also use present simple for timetabled events. I’ll never understand the future!

I’m sure you will! You’re using it correctly already.


What are your plans for this weekend?


Tina - Coordinator's picture
Tina - Coordinator 6 January, 2016 - 08:16

Hi Gurutzne :)
Welcome to LearnEnglish Teens! We're glad that you have enjoyed this page and we all hope that you find the rest of our website great too ;)
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teen Team)

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runime's picture
runime 17 April, 2016 - 06:41

Hi Tina! It's great to see you in here, I was one of your students in FutureLearn course. Now I have a question with a sentence which I saw in above video's subtitle. That is "It's had great reviews." I can not quite understand why there are two verbs. Is this a correct sentence?

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JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 19 April, 2016 - 11:01

Hi runime,
Tina is on holiday this week but she'll be back with us soon! For now I'll answer your question. In the sentence 'It's had great reviews' it's the present perfect - it's had = it has had. To find out more about the present perfect have a look at this video in our grammar section:  http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/grammar-vocabulary/grammar-videos/present-perfect-simple-and-continuous

Best wishes and welcome to LearnEnglish Teens! Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Sarahappy's picture
Sarahappy 4 November, 2015 - 18:04

Check your grammar isnt working.. Help?
My teacher was saying about some competition on this site? What is it about?

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 5 November, 2015 - 09:50

Sorry to hear you're having problems and thanks for letting us know. I've just tested it and it's working fine for me. Can you do the exercises on other pages OK? Are you using a desktop computer, mobile or tablet? Are you using Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari or another browser? Try using a different browser and see it that works. LearnEnglish Teens is not running any competitions at the moment but maybe your teacher knows about a local competition.
Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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NI12's picture
NI12 2 November, 2015 - 17:03

I'm going to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain and I'm certainly going to hang out with my friends. :)

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sona's picture
sona 25 October, 2015 - 11:24

I am going to my village this weekend . Then, I am going to finish my book. Finally,I am going to watch Stardust with my brother.

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donya123's picture
donya123 15 October, 2015 - 13:39

At friday I am meeting my friend.I think I will wear something usual clothes.Afterwards I am going to cinema with my friends. We are also going to eat out, I am not in the mood to eat at

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 18 October, 2015 - 22:11

Hi abrarghumma!
No. We don't use will for talking about plans and arrangements. You can use going to + verb or present continuous.  So, I'm going to meet my friends or I'm meeting my friends are both correct. Try the exercises on this page for more practice.
Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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