The future is, without doubt, one of the most common conversation topics in our everyday lives. Grammatically speaking, we tend to associate future events and plans with the modal verb ‘will’ – it is easy to use and works for many types of situations, so what could possibly go wrong?
Well, it turns out there’s one thing that could go wrong. We tend to overuse ‘will’ to refer to the future and often end up sounding repetitive… when the truth is that there are other structures we could use! Get ready to expand your vocabulary in this month’s Tricky grammar article!
We know what you’re thinking: the present continuous, as its name indicates, refers to the present! The truth, however, is that we can also use it to talk about confirmed plans – when we are certain that they are going to happen.
Examples: “We are going to Madonna’s concert next week – I’ve got the tickets!”; “She is travelling to Iceland next month.”
While ‘going to’ might seem similar to the present continuous tense at first glance, there is a slight difference: we use ‘going to’ specifically to refer to our intentions. Alternatively, we can also use it to make a prediction supported by evidence.
Examples: “I am going to study hard and pass the exam, I don’t care what you say!”; “Look at those dark clouds! It’s going to rain.”
Might / May:
What happens, however, when we want to talk about plans or events we’re not fully sure about? In that case, ‘may’ and ‘might’ cover your needs just fine. They can be used interchangeably, although ‘might’ is often said to imply even less certainty.
Examples:“I may go for a walk later – I’m not sure yet, though”; “There’s a chance we might buy the house, time will tell!”
Bound to / Certain to:
Here’s one for all the advanced students out there! The structures ‘be bound to’ and ‘be certain to’ are generally used to describe events or situations that are highly likely to happen. In other words, they describe a very high level of certainty!
Examples: “He has been studying very hard lately – He is bound to pass this exam with flying colours!”; “The team are winning by a landslide, they are certain to win this one!”
Ready for a test?
1. I know just how stubborn Leah is. She ___________ that jacket, no matter what we tell her. (buy)
2. I’m not sure what I’ll do on Christmas Day. I ____________ a few friends over for lunch, we’ll see. (have)
3. We ____________ a movie at the cinema tomorrow night. You have no idea how hard it was for us to get tickets! (watch)
4. Their new album ____________ very well. They are super popular right now! (sell)
5. I haven’t decided what to do this weekend. My friends suggested going hiking, so I ___________ them. (join)
6. They’ve just lost three of their best players – They ___________ this game. (lose)
7. Oh, no! That guy is riding his bike too close to the edge of the pier. He ____________! (fall)
8. After so many years saving money for this trip, we ___ finally __________ to Canada! We’ve just printed the boarding pass! (travel)
1. is going to buy
2. may have / might have
3. are watching / are going to watch
4. is going to sell / is bound to sell / is certain to sell
5. may join / might join
6. are bound to lose / are certain to lose / are going to lose
7. is going to fall
8. are travelling