How to Use the Present Continuous and the Simple Present with a Future Meaning for Arrangements and Schedules

Podcast #3 How to Use the Present Continuous and Simple Present with a Future Meaning for Arrangements and Schedules

As I mentioned in my last podcast, English does not have a future tense. You learned how to use “to be going to” and “will” to talk about decisions and predictions.

In today’s podcast, you’ll find out how to use the present continuous and the simple present with a future meaning.

We use the present continuous for plans or arrangements that we do not expect to change or that are unlikely to change in order to show our commitment and definite intentions.

We also use the simple present when talking about schedules or timetables and only when using specific verbs.

In this podcast, I explain the uses of these future forms in more detail with several clear examples.

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

Transcript:

Welcome to the English with Kim podcast.  This is episode 3.  You can find this podcast, and a transcript of the podcast at englishwithkim.com/podcast3.

In today’s podcast, I’m going to talk about how to use the present continuous and the simple present with a future meaning.  In podcast 2, I talked about how to use “to be going to” and “will” for predictions and for decisions.  We use “to be going to” for decisions made prior to the moment of speaking.  We can also use the present continuous for these types of situations.

So, what’s the difference between “to be going to” and the present continuous with a future meaning?  We use the present continuous when we want to talk about plans or prior arrangements.  Arrangements are things that require some sort of commitment or some sort of fixed schedule.

For example, when someone gets married, we say, “She’s getting married in June.”  Think about how much work it is to plan a wedding.  You have to choose a date, you pick the location, you send invitations, you rent tuxes, you buy dresses.  There’s lots of different things that you have to do.  So when you make these sort of plans, you don’t intend to change the date.  The date is fixed, so these are arrangements that you do not think are going to change, or they’re unlikely to change.

Similarly, this is why you can say, “I’m moving next month” or “I’m going to Mexico next year.”  These are things that require arrangements.  You have to book a moving company, or you buy a plane ticket.  These are things you don’t expect to change unless there’s something really crazy that happens to you.

This is why we use the present continuous when we talk about plans in the near future.  For example, “I’m having dinner with my friend tomorrow night.”  When I make plans with my friend, I choose a time, maybe a location, and I don’t plan to cancel on my friend, that’s not very nice.

As you can see, this is why we use the present continuous to show a definite intention, something that we do not expect to change.

And how can I tell the difference between the present continuous meaning now, and the present continuous meaning a definite intention?  Well, this is pretty easy.  You have to pay attention to the context of the sentence.  There’s usually something that indicates the future, like “next week,” “next year,” “after we finish,” “after he graduates,” something that tells us that I mean the present continuous with a future meaning.

So, when do I use the simple present with a future meaning?  We use the simple present when we’re talking about a schedule or a timetable, a fixed time, something that is regular, something that doesn’t change very often.  Usually, when we’re talking about schedules or timetables, we’re talking about planes, trains, buses, movie times, theater times, concert times, sometimes stores opening and closing, maybe even your class schedule at school.

For this reason, there are only a few verbs that we use in the simple present with a future meaning.  For example, open, close, begin, end, start, finish, arrive, leave, come, and return.

This is why we ask, “What time does the movie start?” or “When does your plane arrive?” or “What time does the train leave?”  You can answer, “The movie starts at 7:30 and ends at 10,”  “My plane arrives at 3PM,” or “The train leaves at noon.”

Because these are fixed schedules, they’re kind of like habits, so this is why we use the simple present even though we’re talking about future actions.  As you can see from these examples, we use the simple present with a future meaning for very specific situations.  We also use the present continuous with a future meaning for very specific reasons, to show a definite intention, something that’s unlikely to change, or some sort of arrangement.

After listening to this podcast, I hope you feel a little more comfortable using the present continuous and the simple present with a future meaning.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Thank you for listening to the English with Kim podcast.

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