How to Use the Future Forms “to be going to” and “will” for Decisions and Predictions

Podcast #2 How to Use the Future Forms To Be Going To and Will for Decisions and Predictions

Unlike other languages, English does not have a future tense.

Instead, we have future forms: the modal verb “will,” the construction “to be going to,” the simple present, and the present continuous can all be used to express future meaning!

In this podcast, you’ll learn how to use “to be going to” and “will” to talk about decisions and predictions.

You’ll understand how “to be going to” is used to talk about decisions made before the moment of speaking, or plans, and how “will” is used to talk about decisions made at the moment of speaking, or offers.

You’ll discover how both “to be going to” and “will” can be used for predictions about the future, but how “to be going to” is better when the prediction is based on an observation made in the present moment.

In another podcast, I will talk about other uses of “will” as well as how to use the simple present and present continuous with a future meaning.

Please enjoy the podcast, and let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Transcript:

Today I’m going to talk about the future forms that we use in English. Unlike the past tense and the present tense, we do not actually have a future tense.  Instead, we have several different future forms that we use to express different ideas about the future.  We use the modal verb “will,” the construction “to be going to,” the simple present, and the present continuous to express different ideas about the future.

Today I’m going to focus on the use of “will” and the use of “to be going to.”  In another podcast, I’ll talk about the simple present and the present continuous.

I often notice that students use “will” to express all of their ideas about the future; however, this is not always correct.  Let’s focus on how we use “to be going to” and then we’ll return to “will.”

We use “to be going to” to talk about a decision that we’ve made before the moment of speaking.  In other words, we use “to be going to” to talk about our plans.  Someone may ask, “What are you going to do this weekend?”  You may say, “I’m going to have dinner with a friend,” “I’m going to see a movie,” “I’m going to study for my English test.”  All of these are decisions you’ve made prior to the moment of speaking.

As you can see, we don’t use “will” to express this idea about the future.  Instead, we use “will” to describe a decision that we’ve made at the moment of speaking.  For example, if I hear the doorbell ringing, I may say, “I’ll get it!”  In this example, you made the decision to answer the door as soon as you heard the doorbell ringing, not before.

Another example is when someone asks you a question.  For example, your friend may ask, “Hey, where’s the party this weekend?” and you say, “I’ll email you the address.”  This is another decision made at the moment of speaking.

As you can see from these examples, we use “to be going to” and “will” for very different reasons when talking about decisions.  The good news is that we can use both “to be going to” and “will” to make predictions.  In general, we can use “to be going to” and “will” interchangeably.  However, there are some situations where “to be going to” is a little bit better.

To make a prediction about flying cars, I can use “will” or “to be going to.”  I can say, “We’ll have flying cars in the next 50 years” or “We’re going to have flying cars in the next 50 years.”  In these examples, I’m making a general prediction which has nothing to do with my experience at the present, so I can use both “will” and “to be going to.”

However, when I’m basing my prediction on some sort of present circumstance, I’m going to use “to be going to” in my prediction.  For example, if I look out the window and I see storm clouds, I say, “I think it’s going to rain.”  Another example is if I see a glass at the edge of a table and I think it’s going to fall.  I say, “Careful! That glass is going to fall.”  These are predictions based on my present circumstances.

By using “to be going to,” I show that I think that this is really likely to happen in the near future.  It’s going to happen.  It’s something I feel very strongly about based on my experience in the present moment.  For other types of predictions, we can use both “will” and “to be going to.”

In this podcast, I describe the two main uses of “to be going to” and “will.”  We use “to be going to” to describe decisions made before the moment of speaking.  We use “will” to describe decisions made at the moment of speaking.  We use both “to be going to” and “will” to talk about predictions for the future.  In a future podcast, I’ll talk about how we use the present simple and the present continuous with a future meaning.

Thank you for listening to this podcast with EnglishWithKim.com.

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4 thoughts on “How to Use the Future Forms “to be going to” and “will” for Decisions and Predictions”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing it, I am a teacher in Brazil and it’s great to find good material like this for my students.

    Reply
  2. I’m going to have to say your explanation is too simplistic and will cause confusion for English language learners. That’s something I feel very strongly will happen. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

    Reply
    • You’re welcome to contribute your own explanation to help make these points more clear! However, I think you missed my examples about when “to be going to” is preferred (when you’re making predictions based on present circumstances, such as seeing storm clouds or an object teetering on the edge of a table).

      Reply

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