The Future Tenses


Just as there are four present tenses and four past tenses in English, there are also four future tenses: the Simple Future, the Future Continuous, the Future Perfect, and the Future Perfect Continuous.

1. The simple future

a. Use
The Simple Future tense is used to express non-continuous actions which will take place in the future. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Future tense are underlined.
e.g. They will finish the work tomorrow.
He will arrive next Saturday.

b. Formation
The Simple Future of any verb is formed from the auxiliary will or shall, followed by the bare infinitive of the verb.

In informal English, particularly in American English, the Simple Future is usually conjugated entirely with the auxiliary will. The auxiliary will is a modal auxiliary. Modal auxiliaries do not modify, but have the same form, regardless of the subject.

The auxiliary will is often contracted to ‘ll. Thus, in informal English, the Simple Future of the verb to work is usually conjugated as follows:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  I will work  I’ll work
  you will work  you’ll work
  he will work  he’ll work
  she will work  she’ll work
  it will work  it’ll work
  we will work  we’ll work
  they will work  they’ll work

Verbs used with the subjects I and we are generally referred to as being in the first person; verbs used with the subject you are generally referred to as being in the second person; and verbs used with the subjects hesheit and they are generally referred to as being in the third person.

For formal English, there is a rule which states that in the Simple Future, the auxiliary shall should be used in the first person, and the auxiliary will should be used in the second person and third person. Like the auxiliary will, the auxiliary shall is a modal auxiliary.

Thus, in formal English, the Simple Future of the verb to work may be conjugated as follows:

  I shall work
  you will work
  he will work
  she will work
  it will work
  we shall work
  they will work


Even in informal English, the auxiliary shall is usually used in the first person for questions in which a request for permission is implied.
e.g. Shall I call the office?
Shall we go to the library?

However, the use of will for the first person of the Simple Future is beginning to be considered acceptable in formal English. Thus, except for questions where a request for permission is implied, either will or shall may be used for the first person of the Simple Future. In this chapter, the alternative use of the auxiliary shall in the first person will be indicated by the word shall in brackets.

The rules for the use of will and shall which apply to the Simple Future tense, also apply to the other future tenses.

See Exercise 1.

c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Simple Future are formed using the auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  It will work.  Will it work?
  They will work.  Will they work?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative StatementNegative Statement
  It will work.  It will not work.
  They will work.  They will not work.

In spoken English, the following contraction is often used:

Without ContractionWith Contraction
  will not  won’t

The contracted form of will not is unusual, since it is not only the o of not which is omitted. In addition, the ll of will is omitted, and the i of will is changed to o. The contracted form, won’t, is pronounced to rhyme with don’t.

In addition, shall not is sometimes contracted to shan’t. However, the word shan’t is rarely used in modern American English.

Negative questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the auxiliary. The following are examples of negative questions with and without contractions:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Will it not work?  Won’t it work?
  Will they not work?  Won’t they work?

Tag questions are formed using the auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions.

Affirmative StatementAffirmative Statement with Tag Question
  It will work.  It will work, won’t it?
  They will work.  They will work, won’t they?

See Exercises 2 and 3.

English Grammar Lessons
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