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.

Total votes: 697
Language level: 


What are your plans for this weekend?


annie2001's picture
annie2001 24 September, 2017 - 19:31

I almost never have any plans for weekends. Usually I just stay at home, watching tv-series, listening to audiobooks or dancing. :)

27 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 28 August, 2017 - 05:55

Hi Proserpina. It could be:

  • It'll rain the whole day (using will)
  • It's going to rain the whole day (using going to)

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

30 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 22 June, 2017 - 07:35

Hi catastrophe. Good luck to you and all our other users who have exams at the moment! :)
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

36 users have voted.
VBS's picture
VBS 28 March, 2017 - 02:47

This weekend I will going out with my friends to the cinema, eating Chinese food and sleeping very late.

63 users have voted.
LuosBatson's picture
LuosBatson 27 March, 2017 - 07:30

The exercises are of very good quality, so it helps completely to the learning.
Good job!

61 users have voted.
VBS's picture
VBS 27 March, 2017 - 05:12

Excellent exercises to learn to differentiate the ing although the last one I have doubts in 3 sections, I will ask my teacher the answers.

56 users have voted.
coolchoc's picture
coolchoc 17 March, 2017 - 18:34

Dear LearnEnglish Team,
I have noticed a mistake in one of the exercises - in the answer it says "I will" instead of "I will help":
"1. That looks heavy. I help you. That looks heavy. I'll help|I will you.".
I like your website, it's incredibly useful!

60 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 18 March, 2017 - 06:59

Hi coolchoc,
Thanks for your comment. I've checked the game and you're right - the answers should be I'll help or I will help. In fact that's exactly what we have as the answers inside the game - so this is a small technical problem that we will fix as soon as we can. Sorry about this!
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens team)  

66 users have voted.
Zahir's picture
Zahir 17 January, 2017 - 15:14

my plan is to watch a movie in the cinema hall. And this video helped me to recover my mistakes in future forms. Thanks

72 users have voted.
Mabdelaziz's picture
Mabdelaziz 7 October, 2016 - 17:41

Hi.Really I like this website.
I want to ask something please.
Why I should say I don't think he will go the party and I can not say I think he will not go to the party.
Could you explain to me ,please.

109 users have voted.