Future tense

Future tense

In grammar, the future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future (in an absolute tense system), or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future (in a relative tense system).

Expressions of future tense

Languages can employ various strategies to convey future tense meaning. The concept of the future, necessarily uncertain and at varying distances ahead means that the speaker may express the future in terms of probability, intent, obligation and so forth, each of which might be expressed in a different way. This is particularly so in the Germanic languages.

The future can be a simple tense, meaning that verbs can be inflected, or conjugated, to indicate future tense. For instance, Italian has a simple future tense:
*present "parlo" "I talk, I am talking" vs. future "parlerò" "I will talk"

The future can also be a compound tense, or an analytical structure involving the main verb and an auxiliary verb. The English future tense using the tense auxiliary "will" is an example of a compound future tense. Across languages, the auxiliary verbs used to mark future tense often include verbs originally meaning "come", "go", "have", "take" "love", or "want" (the origin of English "will"). [cite book|title=World lexicon of grammaticalization| first=Heine| last=Bernd|coauthors=Tania Kuteva| year=2002 | publisher=Cambridge University Press| isbn=0-521-00597-3] The auxiliary+verb sequence can eventually become grammaticalized into a single word form, leading to reanalysis as a simple future tense. This is in fact the origin of the future tense in Western Romance languages like Italian (see below).

In some languages, there is no special morphological or syntactic indication of future tense, and future meaning is supplied by the context, for example by the use of temporal adverbs like "later", "next year", etc. Such adverbs (in particular words meaning "tomorrow" and "then") can also develop into grammaticalized future tense markers.

A given language can exhibit more than one strategy for expressing future tense. In addition, the verb forms used for the future tense can also be used to express other types of meaning. For example, the auxiliary "werden" "become" is used for both the future tense and the passive voice in German.

Germanic Languages

In Germanic languages, including English, the usual expression of the future is using the present tense, with the futurity expressed using words that imply future action ("'I go' or 'I am going' to Berlin "tomorrow"."). There is no simple future tense as such.

However, the languages of the Germanic family can also express the future by employing an auxiliary construction that combines certain present tense verbs with the simple infinitive (stem) of the verb which represents the true action of the sentence. These auxiliary forms vary between the languages.

Other, generally more informal, expressions of futurity use an auxiliary with the compound infinitive of the main verb.


The most common auxiliary verbs used to express futurity are:

* "shall" (and its subjunctive "should"). This implies obligation or determined intent when used in the second person and its plural, and implies a simple future meaning in the first and third.
* "will" (and its subjunctive form "would"). This implies wish or intent for the future, other than in the first and third person, in which it implies obligation or determined intent. Otherwise, it is used as the most neutral form and it is the most commonly used.

A dialectical form in Northern England is:

* "mun", derived from Old Norse, which implies obligation.

In all dialects of spoken English "shall" and "will" are commonly elided into "'ll" ("I'll go" could be either "I will go" or "I shall go") so that the differences between the two have been worn down.

English also uses "can", "may" and "must" in a similar way.
*"Should" (the subjunctive form of "shall" in this context) implies obligation or commitment to the action contemplated.
*"Can" implies the ability to commit the action but does not presuppose obligation or "firm" commitment to the action.
*"May" expresses the least sense of commitment and is the most permissive; it is also a verb used in the auxiliary construction that suggests conditionality.
*"Must," by contrast, expresses the highest degree of obligation and commitment ("I "must" go") and is temporally nearest to present time in its expression of futurity ("I must go "now".")

To wit:

*I shall/will go
*I should go
*I can go
*I may go
*I must go

To express futurity in the negative, a negative adverb - such as "not" or "never" is inserted after the auxiliary verb, as in all other auxiliary constructions.

*I shall/will not go
*I should never go
*I cannot go
*I may never go
*I must not go

In all of these, action within a future range of time is contemplated. However, in all cases, the sentences are actually voiced in the present tense, since there is no proper future tense in English. It is the "implication" of futurity that makes these present tense auxiliary constructions amount to a compound future quasi-tense.

An additional form of expressing the future is "I am going to...".

This reality, that expression of futurity in English is a function of the present tense, is born out by the ability to negate the implication of futurity without making any change to the auxiliary construction. When a verbal construction that suggests futurity (such as "I shall go") is subsequently followed by information that establishes a condition or presupposition, or the active verb stem itself contradicts a future indicative application of the construction, then any sense of future tense is negated - especially when the auxiliary "will" is used within its literal meaning, which is to voluntarily 'will' an action. For example:

*Person A says: "You will go now. You will not stay."
*Person B answers: "I shall go nowhere. I will stay."

The second 'will', in B's response, is not only expressing volition here but is being used in contradistinction to the usual first person 'shall' in order to achieve "emphasis". Similarly, in the case of the second and third persons, 'will' operates with 'shall' in reverse.

"'For example: A: Will he be at the café at six o'clock? B: He will be there. [Normal affirmation] HOWEVER, B: He "shall" be there. [Stresses that this is not the usual pattern that was previously established or to be expected (Last time he was late or did not show up)] "'

Additional auxiliary constructions used to express futurity are labelled as follows:

Future Continuous: Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Present Participle
*I shall/will be going
*You will be singing
*He will be sleeping
*We may be coming
*They may be travelling
*It will be snowing when Nancy arrives
*It will not be raining when Josie leaves

Future Perfect: Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Past Participle
*I shall/will be gone
*You will have sung
*He will have slept
*We may have come ("We may be come" can still be used poetically, but it is obsolete in speech)
*They may have travelled
*It will have snowed
*It will not have rained

Future Perfect Habitual (or Future Perfect Continuous): Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Past Participle + Present Participle
*I shall/will have been going
*You will have been singing
*He will have been sleeping
*We may have been coming
*They may have been travelling
*It will have been snowing
*It will not have been raining


German uses only one auxiliary for the future:

* "werden" (which on its own means "to become").

There is no compound infinitive in German so the main verb after "werden" is a simple infinitive. The infinitive main verb is placed at the end of the sentence, however long it may be.

Icelandic and Old Norse

Icelandic derives from Old Norse and indeed is scarcely changed from it in the written form. Icelandic uses the auxiliaries:

* "munu" expressing a probable future
* "skulu" (shall) implying obligation or determination.

It is believed that in Old Norse "munu" expressed the pure future, "skulu" expressed obligation or determination as it still does, and a third auxiliary, "vilja" ("will"), expressed will or intent.

A common auxiliary expression of the future, which takes the compound infinitive, is:

* "ætla" expressing intention.

(So "Ég ætla að koma"; "I will come")


Current standard Norwegian auxiliaries are:

* "vil" (will)
* "skal" (shall)

An occasional usage is:

* "mon" (or in Nynorsk "mun".).

Latin and Romance

The future tense forms in Latin varied by conjugation. Here is a sample of the future tense for the first conjugation verb 'amare', 'to love'.

See Latin conjugation for further details. Sound changes in Vulgar Latin made future forms difficult to distinguish from other verb forms (e.g. "amabit" "he will love" vs. "amavit" "he loved"), and the Latin simple future forms were gradually replaced by periphrastic structures involving the infinitive and an auxiliary verb, such as "debere", "venire", "velle", and especially "habere". All of the modern Romance languages have grammaticalized one of these periphrastic constructions for expressing the future tense; none of them has preserved the original Latin future.

Future tense with "habere"

While Classical Latin used a set of suffixes to the main verb for the future tense, later Vulgate Latin adopted the use of "habere" (to have) with the infinitive, as for example:

"petant aut petant venire habet" [St Augustine of Hippo] ("whether they ask or do not ask, it will come")

From this construction, the major Western Romance languages have simple future tense forms that derive from the infinitive followed by a conjugated form of the verb "to have" (Latin "habere"). As the auxiliary verb lost its modal force (from a verb expressing obligation, desire, or intention, to a simple marker of tense), it also lost syntactic autonomy (becoming an enclitic) and phonological substance (e.g. Latin 1st sing. "habeo" > "ayyo" > Old French "ai", Modern French IPA| [e] ).Thus the sequence of Latin verbs "amare habeo" ("I have to love") gave rise to French "aimerai", Spanish "amaré", etc. "I will love". [cite book | title=Morphologie du français médiéval |first=Gaston |last=Zink | publisher=PUF | location= Paris | year=1997 | edition=4th edition| isbn= 2-13-046470-X Fr icon]

Phonetic changes also affected the infinitive in the evolution of this form, so that in the modern languages the future stem is not always identical to the infinitive. Consider the following Spanish examples:
*"go out": infinitive "salir" → 3rd sing. future "saldrá" (not *"salirá")
*"do": infinitive "hacer" → 3rd sing. future "hará" (not *"hacerá")

See the grammar articles for the individual languages for more details about verb conjugation.


Romanian, although a Romance language, patterns like Balkan languages such as Greek and Serbian and Croatian in that it uses reflexes of the verb Wiktionary|vrea (to want):
*"love": infinitive "a iubi" → 3rd sing. future "va iubi"

Romanian also forms a future tense from the subjunctive, with a preceding particle, "o", also derived from "vrea":
*"love": infinitive "a iubi" → 3rd sing. future "o să iubească" (lit. (want) that he love)

Celtic languages

cottish Gaelic

In Gaelic, the future tense is formed in regular verbs by adding aidh or idh to the end of the root form of the verb (idh is used if the final vowel in the root is "i").

*Danns. (dance.) -> Dannsaidh mi. (I will dance.)
*Cuir. (put.) -> Cuiridh i. (She will put.)

Inserting cha before the root forms the negative. The initial consonant of the root is lenited where possible, except for "d", "t" or "s" which in certain cases is not lenited. Chan is substituted if the root begins with a vowel or an "f" followed by a vowel, which is also lenited.

*Cha téid mi... (I will not go...)
*Chan fheuch am peasan sin idir. (That brat will not try at all.)

In the interrogative, an is placed before the root of the verb. If the root begins with "b", "f", "m", or "p", am is used instead.

*An ith thu sin? (Will you eat that?)
*Am pòg thu i? (Will you kiss her?)

As in English, some forms are irregular - mostly common verbs. For example, the root for the word "to see" is "faic", but the positive future tense form "will see" is "chì".

The copula is bidh (will be), cha bhi (will not be), am bi (interrogative), and nach bi (negative interrogative).

*Bidh mi a' tighinn! (I shall be coming!)
*Cha bhi e an seo a-màireach. (He will not be here tomorrow.)
*Am bi thu air falbh as t-samhradh? (Will you be away this summer?)
*Nach bi sibh a' fuireach airson a' bhìdh? (Will not you be staying for the food, sir?)

The linking verb (that will be) is gum bi (positive) or nach bi (negative).

*Tha ise ag ràdh gum bi esan a' dol. (She said that he will be going.)
*Tha mi an dòchas nach bi iad sgìth. (I hope that they will not be tired.)


In Irish, the future tense is formed two ways in regular verbs, depending on verb class. Class I verbs add faidh or fidh to the end of the root form of the verb (fidh is used if the final vowel in the root is "e" or "i").

*Glan. (clean.) -> Glanfaidh mé. (I will dance.)
*Cuir. (put.) -> Cuirfidh sí. (She will put.)

Class II verbs add óidh or eoidh to the end of the root form of the verb (eoidh is used if the final vowel in the root is "e", "i", or "í").

*Eistigh. (listen.) -> Eisteoidh mé. (I will listen.)
*Imir. (put.) -> Imreoidh sí. (She will play.)

Both class I and class II verbs have a special form for the 1st person plural:

*Glan. (clean.) -> Glanfaimid. (We will dance.)
*Cuir. (put.) -> Cuirfimid. (We will put.)
*Eistigh. (listen.) -> Eisteoimid. (We will listen.)
*Imir. (put.) -> Imreoimid. (We will play.)

The negative is formed by adding . The initial consonant of the root is lenited.

*Ní fhreastalóidh mé... (I will not serve...)

In the interrogative, an is placed before the root of the verb, which causes eclipsis.

*An iosfaith tú sin? (Will you eat that?)
*An bpogfaigh tú í? (Will you kiss her?)

Of the ten listed irregular verbs in Irish, six show irregular future forms:
*Abair. (say.) -> Déarfaidh sí. (She will say.) (present "deireann")
*Beir. (catch/bring.) -> Béarfaidh sí. (She will bring.) (present "beireann")
*Faigh. (get.) -> Gheobhaidh sí. (She will get.) (present "faigheann")
*Ith. (eat.) -> Iosfaidh sí. (She will eat.) (present "itheann")
*Tar. (come.) -> Tiocfaidh sí. (She will come.) (present "tagann")
*Teigh. (go.) -> Rachaidh sí. (She will go.) (present "téann")

One additional irregular verb has an alternate future form:
*Feic. (see.) -> Chífidh sí. (She will see.) (regular future "feicfidh")

The future of verb (be) is beidh (1pl. beimid). The copula is ("is") is is (will be), (will not be), an (interrogative), and nach (negative interrogative).

The linking verb (that will be) is gum bi (positive) or nach bi (negative).

*Duirt sí go mbeidh sé ag dul. (She said that he will be going.)
*Tá súil agam nach mbeidh tuirse acu. (I hope that they will not be tired.)


Most verbal functions are expressed using constructions with "bod" (to be). The future may be expressed in the same way using the future tense of "bod".

"Fe fydda i yn..." (I will...)
"Fe fyddi di yn..." (thou wilt...)
"Fe fydd e yn... (he will...) etc

:(in which "fe" serves as the affirmative marker, the pronoun subject following the verb).

More commonly Welsh uses a construction with "Mynd" (to go)

Futurity can also be expressed by using words that imply future action

"Dwi'n mynd yna heddiw": I am going there today.

The simple future, which uses verb suffixes conjugated with the verb, is used to express determination of action or to emphasise confidence in outcome. As in the future of "bod", the affirmative marker is "fe".

emitic languages

Hebrew (Biblical)

Hebrew has an entirely different tense system from those understood in the Indo-European language family. There is no future tense as such. Instead, verbs express completed action or uncompleted action. The future is an uncompleted action, though the expression for, for example, "David will give thanks to God" can also mean "David was giving thanks to God". The interpretation depends on the context.

ee also

* Grammatical tense
* Past tense
* Present tense

External links

* [http://ingilizce.tk/?page=01/futuretense.htm Future Tense]
* [http://www.englishtenseswithcartoons.com/page/future_tenses 4 Future Tenses Explained]
* [http://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar English Grammar Reference and Exercises]


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