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IELTS grammar study guide future forms

Published on July 29, 2019

Welcome to the fifth and final part of our IELTS grammar study guide blog series. In the previous posts, we looked at relative clauses, the passive voice, modal verbs, and conditionals. We also talked about how and when to use these complex grammatical structures on your IELTS, and how to improve your own use of grammar for the test. Today, we’ll be focusing on future forms.

Understanding future forms

In the English language, there are number of different ways of talking about the future. Naturally, all future forms refer to a later point in time, but each one of them expresses a specific attitude or intention to the future event. Because of this, it’s important that you’re familiar with the different future forms and their uses, so that on test day you’re better able to choose the right structures to talk about the future.

Present simple

We normally use the present simple tense when we talk about future events that are scheduled:

  • The train leaves at 5 in the morning.
  • Actually, I start my new job on Monday.
  • The course finishes next month.

Present continuous (be + -ing form)

We can use the present continuous to talk about plans or arrangements:

  • We’ re moving houses within the next two months.
  • My parents are coming to visit this summer.
  • I’ m taking some time off after graduation.

Will + infinitive

We use will + infinitive to…

…make predictions:

  • Many believe that the automobile as we know it will be largely obsolete by 2050.
  • Sea levels will continue to rise if we don’t tackle global warming.

…express a spontaneous decision:

  • I haven’t seen my sister in weeks, but I ’ll give her a call when I get home today.
  • I think I ’ll just stay home for the rest of the weekend.

…express beliefs about the future:

  • I’m sure we’ ll enjoy our holiday.
  • I think she’ ll be a famous writer someday.

Be going to

We use be going to to talk about plans and intentions:

  • I’ m going to start taking the bus to work to reduce my carbon footprint.
  • We’ re going to move back to India once I finish my studies.
  • They’ re not going to stop fighting for justice and equality.

Will be + -ing form (also known as future continuous)

We use will be +ing to talk about something happening before and after a specific time in the future:

  • We’ ll be waiting for her at the airport when she arrives.
  • I won’t be able to attend their wedding because I’ ll be working on an important project overseas.

We can also use will be + -ing form to talk about arrangements and intentions (instead of the present continuous or be going to):

  • They’ ll be coming to stay with us for a few days.
  • I’ ll be giving my presentation next week.

Future perfect (will have + past participle)

We use the future perfect to talk about a point in time by which an action will be finished:

  • Some say that by 2070, we will have used up all of our fossil fuel reserves.
  • I will have finished my studies before then.
  • By the time I finish reading the first chapter, he will have read the entire book!

Future perfect continuous (will have been + -ing form)

We use the future perfect continuous to talk about an action that will continue up until a point in the future:

  • By the time I graduate, I will have been studying for 4 years.
  • We will have been living in Europe for a year in December.
  • When I turn 35, I will have been playing the violin for 20 years.

Other ways to talk about the future

In addition to the future forms mentioned above, modals and conditionals can also be used to talk about the future, as well as verbs like plan, want/would like, mean, hope, and expect:

  • We want to have a destination wedding.
  • The company plans to open 5 new stores across the country.
  • We expect to move into our new home within the next couple of weeks.

Future forms in IELTS

Talking about the future is very common in IELTS, particularly in Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2. When choosing a future form for making future predictions, take into consideration your level of certainty and whether you have any evidence when making a claim, so that you choose the right future forms/verbs. Keep in mind that future forms are more flexible than past or present tenses, which means that in some cases there might be more than one suitable form that you can use. Try to become comfortable using a variety of different forms – this will demonstrate that you are able to use a range of different structures.