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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > will and going to    

will and going to


will and going to

Native speakers please answer.

Dear friends, my daughter is attending an advanced English course for English teachers. She works in a bilingual school as a coordinator. The course is at "Cultura Inglesa", an official school for British English. Last class, the teacher spoke about future tense and told them that people don�t use will and going to to express future any more. He said that people say: I�m travelling in December and not I�m going to travel. He also said that going to expressed an uncertain thing meaning I might travel. About  will. You would use it only for questions like �Will you marry me�? I couldn�t believe it. She said that the teacher will bring (or might bring, or is going to bring, I don�t know which one any more) exercises and show them the newest student books where there is no going to any more.

2 Sep 2012      


???!!!! My family in law is British, I �m not, I can guarantee you that they use "will" and "going to" to express the future. The present continuous is used to express the near future generally. Oh my God, who is this teacher?!!

2 Sep 2012     


All mainstream publishers have rules on the use of will/to be going to/ present progressive for future.
Maybe your daughter misunderstood and the teacher ment this particular use of present progressive for fixed arrangements in the nearest future?
I just can �t imagine present progressive being used in:
-I �m cold. - I �m bringing you an extra blanket. - that is just not possible!
-I think it is raining this afternoon.

2 Sep 2012     

United Kingdom

Hi guys, I �m a native speaker and I find it hard to believe the teacher said we never use �will � and �going to � for future. We use them all the time. However, in the example given, �I �m travelling in December � is correct. Or, �I �ll be travelling in December � is also fine. �I will travel in December � or �I �m going to travel in December � don �t sound quite right, if the commitment to travel in December is definitely made.

Sophia, while �I �ll bring you an extra blanket � is probably better, �I �m bringing.. � is OK. Something like, �OK, hold on, I �m bringing you an extra blanket �- that sounds fine, even if you haven �t yet got hold of the blanket when you speak. 

It will take a better grammarian than me to explain it all, though!

2 Sep 2012     

United States

It doesn �t need a grammarian, Lynne. You and Sophia have demonstrated that these two forms are definitely still used, probably as much as ever. I �m guessing that this teacher is Brazilian, rather than British. I �m afraid of these "newest books" the teacher mentioned. I wonder where they were published.

2 Sep 2012     

United Kingdom

Maybe he means specifically that English has no future tense as such (true), but he seems to have only half-digested the fact that we do have other ways of talking about the future anyway - which definitely includes using the modal auxiliary will - but each of them can carry different meanings depending on context.  The progressive form �Im travelling... �, for example, would convey an intention rather than the arrangement or schedule marked by the present ( �I travel... �). Dismissing going to + verb to indicate a future activity is just daft - I can �t even think of a reason why he might do that (other than the fact it �s already in progressive form...). I �m hoping that it �s all been a horrible misunderstanding, as Sophia suggests.

2 Sep 2012     

United Kingdom

Dear Silvia (Lefevre),


Here is an extract from �A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language�, (1779 pages, which  include more than 700 bibliographical references), by Professor Randolph Quirk and 3 other English professors, assisted by Professor David Crystal, printed 2010, (cost �200).  For these reasons, I suggest that some scholars will accept that it carries some current authority.


Page 213



Although according to the analysis we have adopted � there is no future tense in English, it is useful at this point to consider the most useful constructions for expressing future time, particularly in independent clauses � .  Futurity, modality and aspect are closely interrelated, and this is reflected in the fact that future time is rendered by means of modal auxiliaries, or by the simple present or present progressive forms.


Will/shall + infinitive


The most common way of expressing futurity is the modal auxiliary construction with �will�, �shall� or � �ll �.

              He will be here in half an hour.                              [1]

              Will you need any help?                                          [2]

              No doubt I�ll see you next week.                           [3]

              If the crop fails there will be a famine.                 [4]

The modal verb �will� (or the contracted form � �ll � � ) is used with future meaning with subjects of all three persons.  The infrequent modal �shall� is used (especially in Southern British Br E) to indicate futurity, but only with a first person subject.

              No doubt I shall see you next week.                     [3a]

Although �shall� and, particularly, �will� are the closest approximation to a colourless, neutral future, they do cover a range of meanings with modal colouring, from prediction to volition � .)  A strong teaching tradition, especially in Br E, has upheld the use of �shall� as the correct form, in preference to �will�, with a first person subject in formal style.

Predictive �will� is particularly common in the clause superordinate to conditional or temporal clauses:

              You�ll feel better if/when you take this medicine.           [5]  

Even where no conditional clause is present, there is nevertheless frequently an implication that the future event or state of affairs will result from, or depend on, the fulfilment of certain future conditions which may not be specified:

              Take this medicine.  You�ll feel better in an hour or so.

              How can you be sure that there will be a change of government at the next election?

Turning to the volitional examples, �will� and �shall� especially with the 1st and 2nd persons often express intention, eg. in making agreements, promises, threats, etc.

              How soon will you announce your decision?

              We shall ensure that the repairs are carried out according to your wishes.

Other volitional and obligation uses are discussed in � .)



With a 2nd or 3rd person subject, �will� can also express an abrupt and quasi-military command:

You will do as I say.

Officers will report for duty at 0600 hours.


Page 214

Be going to + Infinitive


Another construction frequently used to express futurity, especially in informal speech, is �be going to� followed by the infinitive.  Its general meaning is �future fulfilment of the present�.  Looked at more carefully, the construction has two more specific meanings, of which one, FUTURE FULFILMENT OF PRESENT INTENTION, is chiefly associated with personal subjects and agentive verbs:

              When are you going to get married?

              Leila is going to lend us her camera.

              I�m going to complain if things don�t improve.

The other meaning, FUTURE RESULTS OF PRESENT CAUSE, is found with both personal and non-personal subjects:

              It�s going to rain.                                        She�s going to have a baby.

              There�s going to be trouble.                    You�re going to get soaked.

As these examples suggest, the association of �be going to� with the present often leads to the assumption that it indicates the proximity of the future event.  Unlike �will� and � �ll �, �be going to� is not generally used in the clause superordinate to a conditional clause:

              If you leave now, you�ll never regret it.

              If you leave now, you are never going to regret it.  (Native speakers are unsure about the            acceptability of this form - Author)



However, �be going to� does occur with conditional sentences like the following:

              If you�re expecting a first-class hotel, you�re going to be disappointed.  [1]

Since the time of orientation for �be going to� is the present, it is used in conditional sentences only when the causal or contingent link between the meanings of the two clauses exists at the present time.  In the more usual case, this link is placed in the future, and so �will� is used instead.  The special import of �be going to� in [1] above can be emphasized by adding before the subject of the main clause: �I can already tell you that ��.



I hope that this helps the debate.


2 Sep 2012     

United Kingdom

Excellent, Les.

2 Sep 2012     


your explanation is absolutely PERFECT!
I will certainly use it in my classes.

2 Sep 2012     

United Kingdom

And of course, we shouldn �t forget the futurate use of the preterite as well: he thought the exams started tomorrow.

2 Sep 2012     


Thank you all for the informations. Now I have to elaborate a plan how to tell the teacher. I �ll come back after he brings the exercices and the book.

2 Sep 2012     

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