When we think of the future we automatically think of will. But this is really only part of the story. In reality, will is just the first step in our thought process about our future plans. Lets delve more about future in English Grammar as per speakers perspective.
Obviously we do not know the future. The recent past is clear in our memory like a series of short films playing in our heads. We replay those memories and remember those things which happened. The present is what we see now. What is currently happening all around us or what happens in our present routine. The future for us however is not events we see but rather plans we have for events to happen. We see them in different ways, and different shades of clarity, depending on the level of planning that we have already made.
Future in English Grammar starts with will:
The lowest and first level of a future plan is will. Will is the big bang! When you say I will do something you have not thought about it before. It is the birth of an idea and is a decision you are making here and now at the time of saying it. It is unplanned and spontaneous. It is the first step in your decision-making process. For this reason, it is often preceded with I think or I reckon. It is not a firm decision. It is not arranged or planned. It is simply you deciding at that given moment that this action will play a part in your future life.
Will only expresses your desire and nothing more.
In English, your last testament is called your will. Your will is also what you wish to happen. It is his will – it is what he wants. It is a desire for the future, a desire for something to occur. When you say I will do something you are simply saying that this is your desire and nothing more. It is your first step in creating your future plan. But like the big bang, it is a fleeting moment. From the point of will it instantly changes from being a desire to something more focused.
The second step is going to. This describes your intention.
This more focused thought is expressed with going to. The desire you expressed when you said that you will do something is now transformed into an intention. From I will do something you are now going to do something. The image in your head for the future becomes clearer. You see yourself on the path to that action. Future actions will drive it towards your goal. You are consciously open to achieving it. Young single people can say that they are going to get married one day and they are going to have children. The words express the path they will now take towards that future goal although in this case the when and with who is not at all clear.
The third step is the present continuous I am doing. This is when arrangements have been made.
The final step in future planning is to make solid arrangements. For example I begin my plan with a desire such as I’ll meet my friends this weekend. The will signals that this is what I want to happen. From that moment it becomes I’m going to meet my friends this weekend. I see the path which is in this case to contact people and arrange where and when to meet. This done, I’m meeting my friends this weekend – the present continuous tense. When you use the present continuous, there is the idea now that it is set in stone. My image has now shifted into something much more solid. I can see the place and the people in my minds eye. I may have hopes or fears for the event but the image is solid in my mind. It is happening.
Long term future and short term future:
One thing to mention is that for the short-term future, this week for example, there is little difference between I’m going to go to the cinema and I’m going to the cinema. We do not differentiate the two (in the short term) and native speakers will not think twice about whether the action is arranged or not. However, when we talk about plans further into the future we are much more likely to use going to as the plan probably has not been arranged. For example Next week I’m going to America sounds correct because it is likely that I have bought my ticket, reserved my hotel and got my visa as the action will happen soon.
However, Next year I’m going to go to America sounds much more plausible as this is probably just in the intention phase where it’s what I intend to do but without arrangements having been made, because the time is next year.
The difference could suggest a bribe!
Another example to illustrate the difference between going to and the present continuous is I’m going to get an A in my exam and I’m getting an A in my exam. I’m going to get an A in my exam sounds correct. This is because I’m simply expressing an intention or perhaps it is based on the evidence that I have studied really hard (going to can also express an observation that something will happen based on evidence seen in the present.
If you see a dark sky you say It’s going to rain). To say I’m getting an A in my exam would imply that somehow it has been arranged. Perhaps I bribed the examiner? If not that, then it sounds arrogant at the least.
To sum up Future in English Grammar, there are three basic stages in how we think about the future.
We say we will do something at the outset. This is the moment the decision is made. From there it immediately goes to I’m going to do something which signals that my mind has been made up and I am going to follow my intentions towards making that action a reality. During this phase of the journey I make external arrangements and the moment they become confirmed now I’m doing it.
I’ll have lunch with Teresa on Saturday – my first initial thought
I’m going to have lunch with Teresa on Saturday – It is now my intention
I’m having lunch with Teresa on Saturday – I asked Teresa to have lunch and (perhaps) booked a table. The arrangement is made.
An interesting thing about the short term future is that we generally know what we are doing, particularly if we live a life of routine (which most of us do). Therefore thinking about the next week or so we use going to and the present continuous a lot more than we use will. Will is only the birth of a new idea. Learners of English generally have the idea that will signifies the future, and it does. But only at the first step.
We hope that our this blog post Future in English Grammar has clarified a lot about future tense use. Stay intact. See our post for Correcting Errors in English Grammar too.
The present perfect can be a hard tense to understand and a beautiful tense to explain. Here comes a Present Perfect Tense Explanation to help you up with getting a true essence of this vital tense.
The problem for students is that it looks like and feels like the past. But it isn’t. The clue is in the title: The present perfect. It’s all about the present!
The present perfect tense isn’t about what you did yesterday, or what you did when you were a child or that time you forgot your key or any of that. It’s all about now. More precisely, it relates past actions to the present.
Some readers may not be sure what I mean by the ‘present perfect’. I have done my homework is an example. The simple past tense is I did my homework. So what’s the difference? This is the sixty-five thousand dollar question.
First, let’s think about the past.
When I think back through my past life I think about all the things I did, the things I enjoyed and tasted and felt and saw and experienced and messed up. And as I think about my past there is not one appearance of the word ‘have’. When I think about yesterday or last year, for example, I don’t think I have done, I think I did.
‘Have’ is all about now, in every sense of the word.
So back to the point. I saw the film and I’ve seen the film. What’s the difference?
When we say I saw the film, we have a particular past time in our minds, even if we don’t say it. We are thinking about the action AND the time in which it occurred. For example, if I say I met the president, not only do I think about myself and the president shaking hands but I also think about the particular time in which it happened. I’m thinking last week or three years ago or that summer I broke my arm. The past tense connects a past action with the past time in which it happened.
When I say I’ve seen the film I am not thinking about when I saw it. It’s just not important. It could be yesterday or a hundred years ago, it doesn’t matter. What is important is the action, and it is important for NOW. Where the simple past, I saw the film connects the action and the time in which I did it, the present perfect tense (the clue is in the title!) connects the past action with now.
So why do we want to connect past actions with now?
The answer is, for many reasons. For example, I want to explain to my friend that I don’t want any food now. I say No thanks, I’ve eaten. My eating in the past explains why I am not hungry now. I want to tell someone that I know about a place so I say I’ve been there. If I want to show how important I am now, I can say I’ve met presidents and kings. The I have done something is using my arsenal of past actions to have an effect on the present. I want to explain that I can’t pay for my drink so I say I’ve forgotten my wallet. I’ve finished my work tells my boss that’s it’s okay for me to leave now. I’ve cut myself says that I need a plaster and I’ve never done that could mean I’m interested.
Using the present perfect is like reaching back into the past and pulling a past action back into now and then using it to comment on the present in some way:
I’ve seen the film…I don’t want to see it, I know all about it, I can talk about it – are all possibilities.
You can say that we are the sum of all our past actions. Everything we do builds us and develops us for better or for worse. Sometimes, to show how we feel now, or what we know now, or what we want now, we use one of these past actions to demonstrate. Delving deeper into our present perfect tense explanation we must say that we use the tense.
Imagine a man standing in an empty space. He stands there looking straight at you. Behind him, just a millimeter to his left stands himself again. Like a shadow. Again, a little further to the left, there is another image of the same man and this continues back and back, smaller and smaller. Each image of the man is a little younger than the previous going back. As you move further down the line into the distance the man becomes younger, then a teenager and then a child and then a toddler until the furthest speck is him when he was born.
If I point to any one of these ‘men’ I can say that they did particular actions. Some of them did their homework and when they got older they went to college or they travelled around the world. They had girlfriends and got into fights. They saw movies and slept on floors or in beds. The man we see now, he has a past, a history snaking behind him like a tail leading back to his first moment, his birth.
If the present man wants to talk about his past experiences, he will use the past. ‘In 1987 I had a beautiful girlfriend and we went to Bolivia and climbed the highest mountain.’ But here, he is simply talking about a particular past time, in this case, 1987. But sometimes in life we do not talk about the past time. Rather we use a past action to explain something about the present. We carry all those past actions in our heads and hearts, and suddenly we pull them out and say ‘this is me!’ ‘This is who I am’. ‘I’ve been to Bolivia!’, ‘I’ve had a beautiful girlfriend’, ‘I’ve climbed mountains!’
Reaching back into the past
It’s like we reach back into the past and pull a past action back into the present and use to comment on the present in some way:
I’ve seen the film
The present perfect tense uses the past to give the listener a message for now. I’ve seen the film may mean I don’t want to see it now or perhaps now I want to talk about it. The basic message is now, I know about this film.
The present perfect illustrates present knowledge by using the past as example.
These are some of the aspects that needed to be addressed in this piece of writing for Present Perfect Tense Explanation – How does it work?
The author also posted about English History Facts.