Since no one knows the future, it seems fitting there are four different ways to express actions that will take place in the future. The differences in future verb tenses depend on whether the action will be ongoing or completed at a specific time. So, we might say, "Tomorrow, I will write," or, "By tomorrow, I will have been writing for six days straight."
Each of the future tense verbs outlined below allow us to write with specificity and purpose. It's one thing to say, "I will finish my book." It's more specific to say, "I will have finished my book by the 30th." Let's examine each of the four verb forms. Then, you'll know how to recognize each structure and use each accordingly.
This verb tense is used to express an action that will take place in the future. It's generally reserved for something that will begin and end in the future. It's a statement of fact, made with certainty.
There are two formulas for this verb tense. The first is will + verb. (Although "shall" isn't popular today, it also fits within the simple future tense as shall + verb.) For example, "I will travel to Greece tomorrow," or, "I shall travel to Greece tomorrow."
The second is: to be + going to + verb. For example, "I am going to eat a sandwich in Greece tomorrow," or, "We are going to sit by the sea."
Examples of sentences using the simple future tense include:
We will fly to Santorini.
I am going to dine with friends when we land.
They shall eat lamb and rice.
She will journal about the entire trip.
The structure for questions in the simple future tense is similar. It's typically will + subject + verb or to be + subject + going to + verb:
Will you fly to Greece tomorrow?
Are we going to dine with friends as soon as we land?
Shall they join us for dinner?
Will she write an autobiography?
For example, "I will be traveling to Greece tomorrow." Changing the verb to the present participle (with an -ing ending) indicates that, even though this action will take place in the future, it will be ongoing or "progressive."
Here are several example sentences with the future progressive tense:
We will be packing for our vacation tonight.
He will be bringing the camera and accessories.
I will be taking the paint supplies.
They will be camping with us this summer.
Similar to constructing questions with the simple future tense, writing sentences in the future progressive tense follows the format will + subject + be + present participle:
Will you be packing for our vacation tonight?
Will he be bringing the camera and tripod?
Will I be taking the paint supplies or will he?
Will they be camping with us as well?
This verb tense is used to express an action that will be completed at some point in the future. The formula is will have + past participle. Past participles typically end in -ed, unless the verb is an irregular verb. So, the regular verb "walk" becomes "walked," but the irregular verb "buy" becomes "bought."
For example, "I will have traveled to Greece by tomorrow."
Examples of sentences in the future perfect tense include:
We will have finished our first meal by then.
After the plane ride, he will have slept for ten hours.
She will have unpacked all their belongings.
They will have bought every piece of pottery at the local market.
To form questions in the future perfect tense, the formula is will + subject + have + past participle. Here are some examples:
Will we have finished our calamari by 9 p.m.?
Seriously, will he have slept for ten hours by then?
Will she have unpacked my clothes by the time we return home tonight?
Will they have bought every item in the market?
This verb tense is used to express an ongoing action that will be completed at a specific time in the future. The formula is will have been + present participle. This brings a return of the -ing verb.
The difference between this tense and the future progressive tense is that the future progressive tense does not specify an exact and date/time. However, the future perfect progressive tense does. In effect, it combines the future perfect tense with the future progressive tense.
For example, "I will have been traveling for 18 hours by then."
Example sentences in the future perfect progressive tense look like this:
By this time next year, we will have been living in Santorini for 11 months.
He will have been writing for over a decade.
The restaurateur will have been serving the public for 15 years.
They will have been married for longer than they had been apart.
To form questions in the future perfect progressive tense, follow the formula will + subject + have been + present participle, as in these examples.
By then, will we have been living in Greece for 11 months already?
Will he have been writing for over a decade?
Will the restaurateur have been serving delicious meals for over 15 years?
Will they have been married for longer than they had been apart?
Thanks to the depths of language, we can express ourselves in the past, present, and future tense with clarity. The future tense is particularly interesting because we can plan upcoming events with mild specificity or great detail.
Ready to dive into the past and further explore the present? Dive into these categories of English verb tenses for all the details.