Grammar, Tenses

Future Tenses

by VIDYANAND

/

One way of marking future activity is by using ‘will’ or ‘shall’, together with the stem form of a verb. Look at the following example.

  • The match will begin at 9.30 tomorrow morning.
  • I shall write to him next week.

Many grammar books tell us that ‘will’ and ‘shall’ carry different meanings, but in modern

English there is little difference between the two. Both ‘will’ and ‘shall’ are frequently contracted, or shortened, (as in, I’II’, ‘they’ II’) specially while speaking. The sentences above would be spoken as:

  • The match’II begin at 9.30 tomorrow morning.
  • I’II write to him next week.

It is difficult to say whether the speaker is using ‘will’ or ‘shall’ in these sentences. However, ‘shall’ is more commonly used with the first person pronouns ‘I’ and ‘we’, while ‘will’ is more commonly used with ‘you’ (second person) or ‘he/she’ (third person)

The use of ‘will’ or ‘shall’ shows simply that an event or action is expected to happen in the future. No other meaning of any kind is conveyed. But as we shall we see, several other kinds of meaning can be conveyed, along with the idea futurity when we use other ways of referring to future action.

Reference to future time is also indicated by using ‘be + going to’ together with the stem form of a verb. For example:

  • I am going to buy a new scooter next week.

Note that in this sentence ‘going to’ does not indicate physical movement. There is a difference between ‘I am going to Tuljapur tomorrow’ (where ‘going to indicates physical movement) and ‘I am going to write a book next year’. The use of ‘going to’ shows that someone intends to do something in the future or that a future action has been planned by someone. For example: 

  • Patel is going to join a new company next year.

This sentence would mean that doer, Patel, intends or plans to perform a certain action in the future. (The use of ‘will’ or ‘shall’ on the other hand, does not show any intention or plan on the part of the doer of the action.) Further, note the difference between the following sentences.

  • Anju is going to study law. (Here indicates Anju’s future plan )  Anju will study law.

‘Going to’ suggests that there is a definite plan of Anju’s studying law. But when we say ‘Anju will study law’, we are merely saying that something (here, Anju’s studying law) is expected to take place in the future. In the case of the second sentence, we are saying nothing about my definite plan.

The use of ‘going to’ could also suggest that there is enough reason or evidence to believe that a certain event will take place in the future. For example:

  • It is going to rain tonight. (There are dark clouds in the sky.) The presence of dark clouds gives us reason to be certain about rain. Look at another example.
  • Sunil is going to fail this test. (He hasn’t prepared for this test at all.)

In contrast, the use of ‘will’ or ‘shall’ does not carry this meaning. Compare the following sentences.

  • Our team is going to lose this match.  Our team will lose this match.

‘Going to’ conveys a greater feeling of certainty. (The speaker has good reason to believe that his team will lose. The players may have performed so badly that defeat is likely.) In contrast, the use of ‘will’ makes the statement neutral.

  • A third way of referring to future activity is by using the present progressive forms of verbs. Compare the sentences below.
  • Mehmood is going to take the civil services examination after college.  Mehmood is taking the civil services examination next month.

The two sentences have almost the same meaning. Both sentences suggest intention, or planning, on the part of the doer, Mehmood, but the use of the present progressive (‘is taking’) in the second sentence suggests that the planning is at a more advanced stage and that preparations for the  event have already begun. The future event, thus, seems to be more certain. 

  • Finally, we can refer to future time by using the simple present tense form of the verb. For example:
  • The UN secretary general visits India and Pakistan next month.

The use of the simple present tense suggests that the action or event which is going to take place in the future is part of a programme which has already been finalised and is unlikely to be changed. Compare the sentences below to be clear on the four ways of referring to future time.

  • Hema Malini will perform at the Guruvayoor dance festival next week. (announcement)
  • Hema Malini is going to perform at the Guruvayoor dance festival next week. (planned)
  • Hema Malini is performing at the Guruvayoor dance festival next week. (already arranged & there is a high probability)
  • Hema Malini performs at the Guruvayoor dance festival next week. (finalized & unlikely to change)

The use of ‘will’ in the first sentence makes it a simple announcement of a future event. The use of ‘going to’ in the second sentence tells us that Hema Malini has plans to perform at the dance festival.

The use of ‘is performing’ in the third sentence tells us that the programme has been arranged and there is a high probabilty of Hema Malini’s performing. (The form ‘is performing’ shows greater probability than ‘going to perform’).

The use of ‘performs’ in the fourth sentence tells us that the programme has been finalised and that it is certain that Hema Malini will perform.

Exercise : [1]. Fill in the blanks in the sentences below using ‘will’/’shall’ + stem, ‘going to’ + stem, the present continuous or the simple present tense forms of the verbs given in brackets.

  • According to the weather forecast, there will be (be) heavy rainfall all over the state tomorrow.
  • I have decided to  become a sculptor when I grow up. I am going to join (join) an art school.
  • The directors of the company are meeting (meet) next week. All the arrangements for the meeting are complete.
  • He is going to buy (buy) a new car tomorrow. It is a silver grey Alto.
  • My daughter will return (return) home soon, but she has not made a booking so far.
  • The doctor is busy now but he will see (see) you after an hour.
  • You are neglecting your health. You are going to fall sick (fall sick).
  • A: What is the programme for the prime minster’s visit tomorrow?

B: Well, the prime minister arrives (arrive) at 7.30 a.m. sharp. He goes (go) first to the Raj Bhavan. Then he visits (visit) the State Museum and unveils (unveil) a statue of the former chief minister. He returns (return) to Delhi at 8.30 p.m.

  • We are going to visit (visit) Mumbai next Tuesday. We have already bought our tickets. 
  • Let us hope they will learn (learn) English.

Future Progressive Tense

You learnt earlier that the present progressive forms of verbs are used to show action in progress at the present time. For example:

  • Ramesh is reading a book (now).

Similarly, we use the past progressive forms of verbs are action in progress in the past. For example:

  • Ramesh was reading a book when the train arrived.

In the same way, we can show action in progress in the future by using the progressive (-ing) forms of verbs together with ‘will+be’. For example:

  • At 6.00 p.m. tomorrow, I will be speaking to some students.
  • When the boys meet after ten years, all of them will be working.
  • Raji will be running the family business by the time her brother leaves college.

Exercises : [2]. Fill in the blanks in the sentences below, using the future progressive forms of the verbs in the brackets.

  • Don’t phone me tomorrow morning because I will be writing (write) some important letters.
  • My friend promised to drop in next week, but I don’t think he will be able to come as he will be travelling (travel).
  • Raghavan will be waiting (wait) at the airport when you reach Mumbai tomorrow.
  • Next Monday, at this time, I will be shaking (shake) hands with President Abdul Kalam.

Future Perfect

You have seen how the present perfect tense is used to show that an action is ‘complete’ at the present time. For example:

  • He has finished his homework.

Again the use of the past perfect tense shows that an action was completed at some time in the past. For example:

  • He had finished his homework when the teacher asked him for it.

Now look at the following sentences.

  • Our  train reaches Chennai at 9.30 a.m. tomorrow
  • All the offices will have opened by then.

Look at some more examples of the use of the future perfect.

  • The zoo will have closed by the time we get there.
  • Iqabal will have slept when you call him.
  • Before Clara tells Ben about her promotion, he will have heard the news.

Thus, the use of ‘will’/’shall’, together with the perfect form (‘have’+ participle) tells us that a certain action will be completed by some time in the future.

Exercise: [3]. Fill in the blanks in the sentences below using the future perfect forms of the verbs in brackets.

  • Rita has decided to deposit Rs 100 into her savings account every month. By the end of the year she will have saved (save) Rs 1200.
  • Virendra Sehwag has played 96 test matches so far. By the end of this tour he will have played (play) his hundredth test match.
  • Our examination has begun, and by next Saturday I shall have written (write) my last paper.
  • Call me two days from now. By then, we shall have taken (take) a decision about your transfer.
  • Navnita will have arrived (arrive) by the time you reach home.

Future Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive form of the verb is used to express a special situation and, therefore, we do not commonly use it in speech or writing. Look at the sentence below.

  • By 2008, Bala will have been running the school for ten years.
  • When I see you next, you will have been working at S.M. Pharma for ten months.

In the sentences above, the verb appears in the future perfect progressive tense ‘will+have+been+participle’.

This form is used when the action indicated by the verb is considered from a point of time in the future, and it is seen as having begun at some earlier point and as continuing up to the future time referred to.

Exercise: [4]. Fill in the blanks in the sentences below using the future perfect progressive form of the verb in the brackets.

  • At this time tomorrow, the man will have been sleeping (sleep) for twelve hours.
  • When you reach college in the afternoon, the other students will have been attending (attend) classes continuously since morning.
  • They will have been cleaning (clean) the house since morning when you reach there.
  • Asif will have been teaching (teach) for six years at the computer institute by the time his father retires in 2009.
  • When you see me on stage tomorrow, I shall have been dancing (dance) continuously for four hours.