The present simple tense and the present continuous tense can be used in several ways to talk about the future

Although not always necessary, context clues such as references to time in the future will often help to distinguish their future uses from their present uses.


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Present simple tense to talk about the future

The present simple tense can be used to talk about the future and is often used to refer to fixed schedules in the future.

1.   To express facts that are in the future.
  • “My birthday falls on a Tuesday later this month.”​
  • “Our anniversary is on Sunday next week.”
2. To refer to fixed schedules. 
  • “What time is your meeting tomorrow?”
    • “It‘s at 2pm.”
  • “I finish work at 5pm tomorrow.”
3.   To refer to scheduled events that are in the future, like public transportation timetables or movie times.
  • “What time does the movie start?”
    • “It starts at 8pm.”

“The plane doesn’t leave for another three hours.”


Present continuous tense to talk about the future

The present continuous tense can be used to talk about the future and is often used to refer to arranged plans in the future. Context clues are always helpful here.

1.   When you have already decided and arranged to do something.

Future:

  • “What are you doing on Saturday?”
  • “I‘m playing football.”
    The time reference indicates some time in the future.
  • Present:

  • “I’m playing football.”
    This implies it is happening now.
  • 2.   Just before an action.
    • “I’m ready now. Are you coming?”
      • “Yes, I‘m coming.
    • “I’ve had enough for today. I‘m going to bed.”

    * Please note: There is another grammatical construction, “be going to,” that is specifically used to talk about the future.” [See also: Future: Be going to]

    3.   To talk about personal arrangements.

    Although the present simple can be used here, the present continuous is preferred.

    • “What time are you meeting Ben tomorrow?”
    • “What time do you meet Ben tomorrow?”
    • “We‘re visiting the in-laws on the weekend.

    Original post: 23 September 2020

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