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Will and Going to

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Future Simple 'will + base form' and Going to

Expressing the future with 'will' or 'going to'

These two different forms for expressing future time can be used interchangeably sometimes. However they often express two very different meanings. It needs practice to understand the differences. Both 'will' and ‘going to’ refer to a specific time in the future.

Will – 'will + base form of verb'

You will see him later.
Will you see him later?
You will not see him later.

Going to – 'am/is/are + going to + base form of verb'
You are going to see him later.
Are you going to see him later?
You are not going to see him later.

1 'Will' to express a voluntary action

'Will' often suggests that the speaker will do something voluntarily – an action the speaker will do for someone else. Therefore 'will' can be used to respond to a complaint or request for help. Consequently 'will' is used when we request something from someone else. 'Will not' or 'won't' show a refusal to do something.

I will send you the results when I get them.
Will you help me rearrange the furniture?
I will not do your dirty work.

A – I'm starving! B – I'll make you some sandwiches.

2 'Will' for promises

I will call you when I get home.
He said he will always remember the support we gave him.
I will not tell anyone. My lips are sealed.

3 'Be going to' – to express a plan

'Be going to' shows that something is a plan. It expresses the idea that a person has a plan for the future. It is not important if the plan is concrete i.e. a dream.

I'm going to be the president of the United States some day.
He's going to spend his summer holidays in Egypt.
We're not going to move to another city after all.
We are going to meet in the afternoon.
Peter is going to start university next year.
Where are you going to work after you graduate?

4 Predictions

Both 'will' and 'going to' are used to express predictions. As a person making a prediction has no control over the future rules 1 – 3 cannot apply. In these examples there is no difference in meaning:

Next year will be challenging for me.
Next year is going to be challenging for me.
The next Bond movie will be amazing.
The next Bond movie is going to be amazing.

No Future in Time Clauses

Like all future forms, the Future Simple cannot be used in clauses beginning with time expressions such as: when, while, before, after, by the time, as soon as, if, unless, etc. Instead of Future Simple, Present Simple is used.

When you arrive tonight, we will go out for dinner.
When you will arrive tonight, we will go out for dinner.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now complete the following with the correct form:

  • 1. I just need a few minutes before we go. I _ an e-mail to my friend in Spain.

  • 2. You look like you are about to fall asleep. I _ you a coffee.

  • 3. I _ some tea. Would you like some?

  • 4. It’s a bit too hot in here, I _ the air conditioner.

  • 5. After I graduate, I _ a year doing voluntary work in India.

  • 6. Sarah asked me to help her move to her new apartment. _ as well?

  • 7. When the weather clears we _ camping for the weekend.

  • 8. Peter said that he _ to the party.