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There is a common belief that the only way to express the future in English is to use the two little modal auxiliaries "will" and "shall". Sure they play a major part in this function but there are other ways too of expressing the future. Below you will see 6 ways of expressing the future. I won't call it the "future tense" because that restricts your thinking about how to talk or write about something that is not now but next:
This way you can express a personal intention or make a prediction about what you know/feel/see as in these sentences:
I am going to stop smoking this year. The sea is going to be very rough this afternoon, so don't go swimming.
Back to "will" and "shall". With these two words plus the infinitive of a verb you can express: a future fact, a sudden decision, an offer, a threat, a promise, an opinion about the future, a probability especially after think, suppose, expect, doubt if.
Here are a few examples:
Tomorrow will be my birthday.
It's all right I'll get the shopping.
I will take you in the car if you like.
I'll stand by you whatever happens.
I suppose we'll manage without the car.
This is almost the same as "going to" but it's not quite as personal. Look at this:
The Government is thinking about introducing a new law.
We use this when we are thinking of the certain future, something already arranged as in a timetable or programme:
Your train leaves in ten minutes.
Is to/Are to
These are used to express an instruction or something arranged officially. Here is an example:
The finance ministers are to meet next month to discuss the crisis.
About to/Due to
We use these when we want to describe actions that are expected to happen, usually fairly soon. An example:
The 100 metre race is about to start any minute now.
Below you can see a story I've written using some highlighted examples of how you can express the future.
"Jealousy"I want you to imagine that you are about to visit a small village. It doesn't matter which country it's in because all villages are the same whichever part of the world they are in. There were only about 300 inhabitants in total in this particular village and everyone knew everybody's business. A typical street conversation would run like this: "I hear Joan's going to have a baby next year. I expect it'll be a boy this time I wouldn't be surprised. She's having a nurse come next week to help her with her 5 girls and maybe a boy will make life easier for her!" In this village people usually help each other whenever they can. If someone is going to the "big" town that is where there are more than a thousand people living in it invariably they will say to their neighbours: "I'll get you some vegetables, if you like". But it's not all sweetness and light here because there is a longstanding feud going on between two families. I'll let the local gossip, Mary tell you the background. "It must be ten years ago when it all started. I doubt it'll ever stop", she laughed when she said that. "But then I've been told I am to tell you the beginning of it all and also you are to listen, remember. There are two women who are always arguing about something. One of them lives in that huge house over there. Don't look now because she'll open her front door in a minute. She's going to catch the 9.15 bus that goes in ten minutes from that stop there. Now, she's a fine lady, she is. She's due to become a councillor next month after the elections and she'll probably make a good job of it. Now hold on a second the other lady is leaving her house in a minute. Yes, what did I say? She's going to catch the bus too but she'll get on at the next stop to avoid meeting the councillor lady. Now the second lady runs a small restaurant, as a matter of fact I'm taking lunch there later today." I asked Mary why these two women didn't get on. She looked me straight in the eye and said: "Jealousy. One runs a successful restaurant and the councillor lady runs a small guesthouse. Both of them are going to make a lot of money this year because of the festival but the guesthouse lady will make more and she always has done and that's the cause of the trouble."
Now what I haven't told you", continued Mary, "and I'm just about to reveal it, is that there are two other people in the story. Namely the son of one of the ladies and the daughter of the other. And yes, they are getting married next year and the whole village will be invited. It's going to be a big affair" I interrupted Mary at this point and asked her what had happened to the feud. "Oh that doesn't matter much now" continued Mary "they'll be too busy making arrangements for the wedding. They're due to meet a catering firm this morning". "So what's all this about separate bus stops?" I asked. "Oh, that's just for the tourists who are coming here next month." I tried to understand but had one more question: "And what about jealousy?" "Now, you're not to worry about her. There are plenty of villages round here and she'll soon find another one to visit and cause trouble in" I thanked Mary and walked away, totally confused thinking to myself; "I shall never understand village life."
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