One can easily get confused when it comes to expressing futurity in English, for there are so many rules to follow. To make things easier for English learners, we have created a new mind map, thus summarizing four basic ways to explain which tenses are used to express future events and concepts. (Note: we assume that the learner has already acquired the basic knowledge of English tenses, i.e. Present Simple, Present Continuous…) So, we are not focusing on the form now, but only on the use of English tenses or modals to express futurity.
Let’s look at the blue branch first (will). Many students learn this modality first when they are taught Future and presuppose that they can always use it when they wish to convey ideas concerning the future. But they are wrong. We can use will mostly in the following cases:
• When we promise to do something (The scout in the picture says: “On my honor, I promise that I will do my best”)
• When we make a resolution (e.g. I will work hard at school this year.)
• When we decide to do something at the time of speaking, when we make spontaneous decisions – the most important rule about the use of will! (e.g. I forgot to phone Jim. I will phone him now.)
• When we haven’t planned anything in advance (e.g. It’s getting cold. I’ll take a taxi.)
• When we volunteer to do something (e.g. This room looks so dirty. I’ll help you tidy it).
Next, let’s focus on the red branch. It shows when to use the Present Continuous Tense with a future meaning:
• When we plan to do something. This means that we have already decided to do something (e.g. Helen is travelling to Paris tomorrow.)
• When we talk about near future (e.g. I’m going to bed now.)
• When we have already decided and arranged to do some things. (Karen is flying to Cuba this summer.)
Now, take a look at the purple branch. It sums up the rules for (be) going to (do) phrase with a future meaning:
• When we predict that something is going to happen in the future based on present evidence (e.g. There are so many black clouds in the sky! It’s going to rain.)
• When we have decided to do something and have the intention to do it, but not necessarily arranged to do it (e.g. I am going to watch the new James Bond film next Saturday.)
Finally, the green branch explains when to use the Present Simple tense to express a future aspect:
• When we talk about fixed future events (e.g. The party starts at 8!)
• When we talk about programmes (e.g. What time does the movie begin this evening?)
• When we talk about schedules, timetables, etc. (e.g. The train for Edinburgh leaves at 7:00.)
Now it seems a lot easier, doesn’t it?