Cheat sheet 6 – Talking about future plans
The future is easy in English, but you have to change the way that you think about the future. Most Spanish students have problems using the future in English because they directly translate, but that is how you make mistakes. The future simple (lo haré) is not the same as in English (I will do it). In English we use four main tenses to talk about the future in different occasions. And it is the nature of your plans which dictates which tense to use.
│ 0-15% Future simple
│ 10-75% going to
│ 50-99% Present Continuous
↓ 100% Present simple
This chart is a simple way to remember the four tenses and generally speaking how probably it is that this plan, or future event, will take place.
The future simple is not as useful as you think. Stop using it. It is only used when you don’t have a plan; when you are thinking about your plans, making a decision about something you might do in the future at that moment.
Hmm, I think I will get my hair cut this weekend, since I am free.
Going to + Infinitive
Going to is very useful. Spanish has a similarly constructed expression in ir a but it should not be directly translated since Spanish has different rules with the future. Going to is used to express a plan that you have as an individual or an intention to do something.
I am going to see the new P. T. Anderson film on Saturday. Would you like to come?
What are you going to do this summer?
Present continuous is similar to going to but it is more fixed. If you make an arrangement with other people to do something together then it would be very rude to break those plans. The same applies to an appointment with the dentist or hairdresser. Once you make an arrangement, it should be kept.
I am getting my hair cut tomorrow, but I don’t know what to have.
Are you coming to the work party?
Furthermore, present continuous is the most common future used in English, and going to a close second. Most of the time we talk about plans or intentions, so this makes sense. If in doubt, use one of these two.
Present simple is also used less often. It is used for scheduled or timetabled events like train times, class times, when you start work, or when your flight leaves. You cannot change these things, they will happen even if you are not there, and that is why we use the present simple.
My flight is at 8pm, so I am going to leave the house at 5:30.
What time does class finish? I am bored.