Verb future Verb tenses

In previous editions of English Excellence we explored various forms of verb past tenses. Now we will look at verb future verb tenses. If you find the following complicated, dear reader, do not despair. Well, at least not immediately. The good news is that most native English speakers cannot use these verb tenses. The bad news is that educated ones do, and will immediately notice if you make errors and then categorize you accordingly – subconsciously, of course, but you’re profiled. That’s why our interest is in English excellence and not English enough-to-get-by. 


A note on Singlish – in Singapore it is common to use the word “would” when meaning the future, as in “We would have the meeting tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.” meaning that the meeting will take place at 2:00 p.m. the next day. This is not correct. It should be, “We will have the meeting…”


“Would” and “will” each have several very different meanings, a detailed discussion of which is beyond the scope of this blog, but we may take it up in the future. 


The following is for your reading enjoyment and edification. In our next EE blog we’ll have a quiz so you can test your understanding of how to use these verb tenses. 

  • Please note that to express the future, “will” is the preferred form because it’s shorter and punchier.  “Is going to” is clumsy style, but grammatically correct
Name of    verb tense Idea meant to express Example Grammatical Form
Future Simple Something is predicted to happen or will happen in the future.   Sally will finish the work by 5:00 p.m. will + verb
be going to  Sally is going to finish the work by 5:00 p.m. am/is/are + going to + verb
Future Continuous An action or event will be in progress at a future time. At 8:00 PM tonight, John will be washing the dishes. By Christmas I will be skiing like a pro. will be + present participle
be going to At 8:00 PM tonight, John is going to be washing the dishes. am/is/are + going to be + present participle
Future Perfect A future action will have been completed by the time a second event or a date in the future occurs. There is often a time gap between completing the first event and when the second event occ urs. Sallly will have finished the work by 5:00 p.m. will have + past participle
be going to Sally is going to have finished the work by 5:00 p.m.  am/is/are + going to have + past participle
Future Perfect Continuous A future action will continue until a particular event or time in the future. “How long will you have been studying when you graduate?” The famous artist will have been painting the mural for over six months by the time it is finished. will have been + present participle
be going to The famous artist is going to have been painting the mural for over six months by the time it is finished. am/is/are + going to have been + present participle
Past Habit or Generalization Something was often repeated in the past, but it is not usually done now. Also, something was an old habit which stopped in the past. “Used to” and “would always” are often interchangeable. Jerry used to pay the bills. used to + verb
Used to My mother would always make the pies. would always + verb
Would Always
Future in the Past Expresses the idea that in the past you thought something would happen in the future. I knew John would finish the work by 5:00 PM. would + verb
Was Going to I thought Sally was going to make a beautiful dinner tonight. was/were + going to + verb


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