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CHAPTER 7.  THE FUTURE TENSES

Just as there are four present tenses and four past tenses in English, there are also four future tenses: the Simple Future, the Future Continuous, the Future Perfect, and the Future Perfect Continuous.

 

1. The simple future


a. Use
The Simple Future tense is used to express non-continuous actions which will take place in the future. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Future tense are underlined.
e.g. They will finish the work tomorrow.
      He will arrive next Saturday.

b. Formation
The Simple Future of any verb is formed from the auxiliary will or shall, followed by the bare infinitive of the verb.

In informal English, particularly in American English, the Simple Future is usually conjugated entirely with the auxiliary will. The auxiliary will is a modal auxiliary. Modal auxiliaries do not modify, but have the same form, regardless of the subject.

The auxiliary will is often contracted to 'll. Thus, in informal English, the Simple Future of the verb to work is usually conjugated as follows:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  I will work  I'll work
  you will work  you'll work
  he will work  he'll work
  she will work  she'll work
  it will work  it'll work
  we will work  we'll work
  they will work  they'll work

Verbs used with the subjects I and we are generally referred to as being in the first person; verbs used with the subject you are generally referred to as being in the second person; and verbs used with the subjects he, she, it and they are generally referred to as being in the third person.

For formal English, there is a rule which states that in the Simple Future, the auxiliary shall should be used in the first person, and the auxiliary will should be used in the second person and third person. Like the auxiliary will, the auxiliary shall is a modal auxiliary.

Thus, in formal English, the Simple Future of the verb to work may be conjugated as follows:

  I shall work
  you will work
  he will work
  she will work
  it will work
  we shall work
  they will work

Even in informal English, the auxiliary shall is usually used in the first person for questions in which a request for permission is implied.
e.g. Shall I call the office?
      Shall we go to the library?

However, the use of will for the first person of the Simple Future is beginning to be considered acceptable in formal English. Thus, except for questions where a request for permission is implied, either will or shall may be used for the first person of the Simple Future. In this chapter, the alternative use of the auxiliary shall in the first person will be indicated by the word shall in brackets.

The rules for the use of will and shall which apply to the Simple Future tense, also apply to the other future tenses.

See Exercise 1.

c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Simple Future are formed using the auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  It will work.  Will it work?
  They will work.  Will they work?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative StatementNegative Statement
  It will work.  It will not work.
  They will work.  They will not work.

In spoken English, the following contraction is often used:

Without ContractionWith Contraction
  will not  won't

The contracted form of will not is unusual, since it is not only the o of not which is omitted. In addition, the ll of will is omitted, and the i of will is changed to o. The contracted form, won't, is pronounced to rhyme with don't.

In addition, shall not is sometimes contracted to shan't. However, the word shan't is rarely used in modern American English.

Negative questions are formed by placing the auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the auxiliary. The following are examples of negative questions with and without contractions:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Will it not work?  Won't it work?
  Will they not work?  Won't they work?

Tag questions are formed using the auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions.

Affirmative StatementAffirmative Statement with Tag Question
  It will work.  It will work, won't it?
  They will work.  They will work, won't they?

See Exercises 2 and 3.

 

2. The conjugation expressing determination and compulsion


In formal English, there is a rule which states that, in order to express determination and compulsion, the auxiliary will is to be used in the first person, and the auxiliary shall is to be used in the second person and third person. This is the reverse of the use of will and shall found in the Simple Future. The use of will in the first person is supposed to express determination, and the use of shall in the second person and third person is supposed to express compulsion.

For instance, for the verb to work, the Simple conjugation which expresses determination and compulsion is as follows:

I will work
you shall work
he shall work
she shall work
it shall work
we will work
they shall work

In this conjugation, the expressions I will work, and we will work, have the meaning I am determined to work, and we are determined to work. In contrast, the expressions you shall work, and they shall work, for instance, have the meaning you will be compelled to work, and they will be compelled to work.

See Exercise 4.

The rule for expressing determination and compulsion which applies to the Simple conjugation, also applies to the Continuous, Perfect, and Perfect Continuous conjugations.

However, particularly in American English, the use of the conjugations expressing determination and compulsion is beginning to be considered old-fashioned.

 

3. The present continuous of To Go followed by an infinitive


The Present Continuous tense of to go, followed by an infinitive, is often used to refer to an event which is about to happen, or to refer to an action which someone intends to carry out in the future.

The Present Continuous tense of the verb to go is conjugated as follows:

I am going
you are going
he is going
she is going
it is going
we are going
they are going

The examples below illustrate the use of the Present Continuous tense of to go, followed by an infinitive, to refer to a future event. In each of these examples, the Present Continuous of to go is printed in bold type, and the infinitive which follows it is underlined.
e.g. It is going to rain.
      I am going to write a letter tonight.
      They are going to study in France next year.
In the first example, the use of the Present Continuous of to go followed by the infinitive to rain indicates that it is about to rain. In the second and third examples, the use of the Present Continuous of to go followed by the infinitives to write and to study indicates that the actions of writing and studying are intended to be carried out in the future.

See Exercise 5.

It should also be noted that the Past Continuous tense of to go can be used to express actions which were about to happen in the past.
e.g. I was going to write a letter last night.
In this example, the use of the Past Continuous of to go followed by the infinitive to write indicates that the action of writing was intended to be carried out in the past.

 

4. The future continuous


a. Use
The Future Continuous tense is used to express continuous, ongoing actions which will take place in the future. In the following examples, the verbs in the Future Continuous tense are underlined.
e.g. He will be waiting for us.
      They will be arriving tomorrow.

b. Formation
The Future Continuous of any verb is formed from the Simple Future of the auxiliary to be, followed by the present participle of the verb. For instance, the Future Continuous of the verb to work is conjugated as follows:

I will (shall) be working
you will be working
he will be working
she will be working
it will be working
we will (shall) be working
they will be working

See Exercise 6.

It can be seen that the Future Continuous tense has two auxiliaries. The first auxiliary is will or shall, and the second auxiliary is be.

c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Future Continuous are formed using the first auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  It will be working.  Will it be working?
  They will be working.  Will they be working?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the first auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative StatementNegative Statement
  It will be working.  It will not be working.
  They will be working.  They will not be working.

Negative questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the first auxiliary. For example:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Will it not be working?  Won't it be working?
  Will they not be working?  Won't they be working?

Tag questions are formed using the first auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions.

Affirmative StatementAffirmative Statement with Tag Question
  It will be working.  It will be working, won't it?
  They will be working.  They will be working, won't they?

See Exercises 7 and 8.

 

5. The future perfect


a. Use
The Future Perfect tense is used to refer to a non-continuous action which will be completed by a certain time in the future. In the following examples, the verbs in the Future Perfect tense are underlined.
e.g. She will have finished the work by Wednesday.
      I will have cleaned the room before the guests arrive.
      They will have eaten breakfast by the time he gets up.

In these examples, the use of the Future Perfect indicates that the actions of finishing the work, cleaning the room, and eating breakfast will have been completed before the coming of Wednesday, the arrival of the guests, and his getting up take place.

b. Formation
The Future Perfect of any verb is formed from the Simple Future of the auxiliary to have, followed by the past participle of the verb. For instance, the Future Perfect of the verb to work is conjugated as follows:

  I will (shall) have worked
  you will have worked
  he will have worked
  she will have worked
  it will have worked
  we will (shall) have worked
  they will have worked

See Exercise 9.

c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Future Perfect are formed using the first auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  It will have worked.  Will it have worked?
  They will have worked.  Will they have worked?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the first auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative StatementNegative Statement
  It will have worked.  It will not have worked.
  They will have worked.  They will not have worked.

Negative questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the first auxiliary. For example:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Will it not have worked?  Won't it have worked?
  Will they not have worked?  Won't they have worked?

Tag questions are formed using the first auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions.

Affirmative StatementAffirmative Statement with Tag Question
  It will have worked.  It will have worked, won't it?
  They will have worked.  They will have worked, won't they?

See Exercises 10 and 11.

 

6. The future perfect continuous


a. Use
The Future Perfect Continuous tense is used to express a continuous, ongoing action which will be completed by a certain time in the future. In the following examples, the verbs in the Future Perfect Continuous tense are underlined.
e.g. By next January, she will have been living here for a year.
      You will have been traveling a great deal by the time you return home.
      He will have been working for ten months by the time he takes his vacation.

In these examples, the use of the Future Perfect Continuous indicates that the continuous, ongoing actions of living, traveling, and working, will have been completed before the events of the coming of January, your returning home, and his taking a vacation, take place.

b. Formation
The Future Perfect Continuous of any verb is formed from the Future Perfect of the auxiliary to be, followed by the present participle of the verb. For instance, the Future Perfect Continuous of the verb to work is conjugated as follows:

  I will (shall) have been working
  you will have been working
  he will have been working
  she will have been working
  it will have been working
  we will (shall) have been working
  they will have been working

See Exercise 12.

c. Questions and negative statements
As is the case with other English tenses, questions and negative statements in the Future Perfect Continuous are formed using the first auxiliary.

Questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject. For example:

Affirmative StatementQuestion
  It will have been working.  Will it have been working?
  They will have been working.  Will they have been working?

Negative statements are formed by placing the word not after the first auxiliary. For example:

Affirmative StatementNegative Statement
  It will have been working.  It will not have been working.
  They will have been working.  They will not have been working.

Negative questions are formed by placing the first auxiliary before the subject, and the word not after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the first auxiliary. For example:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Will it not have been working?  Won't it have been working?
  Will they not have been working?  Won't they have been working?

Tag questions are formed using the first auxiliary. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions. For example:

Affirmative StatementAffirmative Statement with Tag Question
  It will have been working.  It will have been working, won't it?
  They will have been working.  They will have been working, won't they?

See Exercises 13 and 14.

 

7. Summary of the formation of the English future tenses



The following table summarizes the formation of the English future tenses.

TenseAuxiliaryVerb Form
  Simple Future  will (shall)  bare infinitive
  Future Continuous  will (shall) be  present participle
  Future Perfect  will (shall) have  past participle
  Future Perfect Continuous  will (shall) have been  present participle

 

8. Clauses



If a sentence has only one subject and one verb, it is said to consist of a single clause, called the main or principal clause. A main clause is a clause which can stand alone to form a complete sentence. Each of the following sentences has only one clause. In the following examples, the verbs are underlined.
e.g. It is cold.
      The flowers are blooming.

If a sentence contains more than one verb, and each verb has its own subject, the sentence is said to consist of more than one clause. The following sentences each have two clauses. The verbs are underlined.
e.g. He said that he was ready.
      The door opened, and my uncle entered the room.

In the first example, he said is the first clause, and that he was ready is the second clause. In the second example, the door opened is the first clause, and my uncle entered the room is the second clause.

a. Coordinate clauses
When two clauses are joined by a word such as and, or or but, the two clauses are called coordinate clauses, and the word which joins them is called a coordinate conjunction. In the following examples, the verbs are underlined.
e.g. It is cold, but the flowers are blooming.
      The flowers are blooming and the birds are singing.

In the first example, the coordinate conjunction but joins the clause it is cold to the clause the flowers are blooming. In the second example, the coordinate conjunction and joins the clause the flowers are blooming to the clause the birds are singing. The clauses in these examples are coordinate clauses.

b. Subordinate clauses
Coordinate clauses are main clauses. A main clause is grammatically independent, in that it may stand alone to form a complete sentence. In contrast, a clause which describes some part of the main clause, or which is in some other way grammatically dependent on the main clause, is called a subordinate clause. A subordinate clause cannot stand alone to form a complete sentence.

In the following examples, the subordinate clauses are underlined.
e.g. The book which I lent you is a library book.
      He told me what he had seen.
      If you are ready, we will go.

In the preceding examples, the main clauses are the book is a library book, he told me and we will go; and the subordinate clauses are which I lent you, what he had seen and if you are ready. A subordinate clause usually begins with a connecting word or phrase which joins it to the main clause. In the preceding examples, these connecting words are which, what and if.

c. The past perfect and the simple past
It has already been seen that the tense of a verb in one clause is related to the tenses of verbs in other clauses in the same sentence. For instance, if one action happened before another in the past, the action that happened first would usually be expressed by a verb in the Past Perfect tense, and the action that happened subsequently would usually be expressed by a verb in the Simple Past tense.

For instance, each of the following sentences has one verb in the Past Perfect tense, and one verb in the Simple Past tense. In the following examples, the verbs are underlined.
e.g. She was late, because she had lost her way.
      It had started to snow before we reached the inn.

In the first example, the verb had lost is in the Past Perfect, and the verb was is in the Simple Past. This indicates that the action of losing the way occurred before the action of being late. In the second example, the verb had started is in the Past Perfect, and the verb reached is in the Simple Past. This indicates that the action of starting to snow occurred before the action of reaching the inn.

d. The use of the present in subordinate clauses to express future actions
It should be noted that if the verb in the main clause of a sentence is in a future tense, the verb of any subordinate clause which refers to the future is usually in a present tense. This is illustrated in the following examples. The verbs are underlined.
e.g. We will welcome him when he arrives.
      I will have finished the work before it is time to leave.

In these examples, the main clauses are we will welcome him and I will have finished the work; and the subordinate clauses are when he arrives and before it is time to leave. In the main clauses, the will welcome is in the Simple Future tense, and the will have finished is in the Future Perfect tense. However, in the subordinate clauses, the verbs arrives and is are both in the Simple Present, even though they refer to future events.

In most cases, the rule is that if the verb in the main clause of a sentence is in a future tense, the verb of any subordinate clause which refers to the future must be in a present tense. There is usually no ambiguity in such sentences, because the fact that the verb in the main clause is in a future tense is generally enough to indicate that all of the actions expressed in the sentence are to take place in the future.

See Exercise 15.

However, there are a few cases in which the verb in a subordinate clause must be put into a future tense in order to avoid ambiguity. For instance, in subordinate clauses beginning with although or because, it is sometimes necessary to use future tenses, to make it clear that the actions expressed relate to the future, rather than the present.

e.g. We will not need to send for her, because she will already be here.
      Although he will be in the neighborhood, we will have to search for him.

In these examples, the use of the Simple Future tense in the subordinate clauses because she will already be here and although he will be in the neighborhood is necessary to make it clear that the events of her being here, and his being in the neighborhood, relate to the future rather than the present.

 

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