The simple future tense in English is easy to make – just add the word “will” before the base form of the verb. And the verb is the same for all subjects! Easy, right? But “will” may not always be the best word to use to talk about the future. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at when to avoid “will,” and how to talk about the future like a native speaker.
How to Pronounce Contractions with “Will”
I’ll, you’ll, etc…easy to create, but not so easy to say. Here at Go Natural English, we focus on how people really speak and express themselves in the real world. You might not learn these things from a textbook!
Native speakers usually make a contraction of the subject and the word “will” when they are speaking. These contractions can be a little difficult to pronounce. Listen to me say these contractions in the video at 2:52.
I will – I’ll
You will – you’ll
He will – he’ll
She will – she’ll
we will – we’ll (this sounds the same as the word “will”)
they will – they’ll
it will – it’ll
The pizza will – The pizza’ll (never in writing, only in casual speaking)
Do you see that you can add the contraction “‘ll” to any subject? But the pronunciation is easier with some subjects than others.
How to Talk About the Future Like a Native Speaker
The good news is that you can use future tense grammar just like a native speaker and avoid the tricky pronunciation of the “will” contractions. You don’t need to use them as often as you might think.
Use the Present Continuous to Talk About the Future
You can use the present continuous – “am/is/are going to” – to talk about the future. And don’t worry, there’s no need to feel confused about the difference between “will” and “going to.” By the end of this lesson, you’re going to feel clear and confident expressing the future and speaking English!
How to Pronounce “Going To”
First, let’s practice the pronunciation of “going to.” You probably know that English speakers don’t say “going to” – we say “gonna.” This is very common in spoken English, but never in professional writing. If you are writing, please spell out “I am going to.”
You can hear me pronounce these phrases at 4:17 in the video.
I am going to – I’m gonna
you are going to – you’re gonna
he is going to – he’s gonna
she is going to – she’s gonna
we are going to – we’re gonna
they are going to – they’re gonna
it is going to – it’s gonna
This also works with other subjects:
the pizza is going to – the pizza’s gonna
It’s quite a relief that we can use “gonna” or “going to” in many situations to express the future, because I think it’s easier to pronounce. What do you think?
3 Reasons to Use “Will” to Talk About the Future
Using “going to” to talk about the future is also more common than using “will.” We only use “will” to express the future in three situations. The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s about your intention. What do you mean to express? I’m going to show you examples where you could use “will” or “going to” in the same sentence, and how the meaning changes slightly.
If you are having a very serious conversation, and you want to express how sincere you are, use “will.”
If you want to be very dramatic, use “will.” For example:
I will always love you.
This is a serious promise, so if you want to be very sincere and dramatic, use “will” to make a promise. If I say to you, “I will help you to speak English more fluently and confidently,” it’s a serious promise. If I say, “I’m gonna help you to speak English more fluently and confidently,” it’s similar but not as dramatic or sincere.
Use “will” if you have just made a spontaneous decision, something that looks good in this moment.
A spontaneous decision is something you haven’t really thought much about. You haven’t planned it, but in that moment you have an idea, or a thought, or something you want to express that you will do, or that you would like to do. In this situation, you would also use “will.”
For example, let’s say you are ordering from a menu at a restaurant. You haven’t really planned your meal, but you look at the menu and decide, “Oh, I’ll have a salad.”
Here’s another example. The other day, a friend texted me the name of an article. I said, “I’ll check it out.” So in that moment, I decided I wanted to read that article in the future. Using “will” is a good response to use in that moment, since I decided right then and there to read the article. I didn’t know anything about that article before he sent it to me, so it was a spontaneous decision to check it out.
When you are making a decision based on an “if” clause, use the word “will.”
Look at this example:
If the sun comes out, I’ll go swimming at the pool.
My decision to go swimming is based on if the sun comes out or not, so when I make that decision, it will be in the moment, depending on if the sun comes out or not.
You could say:
If the sun comes out, I’m going to go to the pool.
It’s still a grammatically correct sentence, but my intention to go to the pool has been there all along. I want to go to the pool, and I’m just waiting for the sun to come out. Think of it this way: If I’m making a spontaneous decision based on whether or not the sun comes out, I would use “will.”
When Not to Use “Will”
If you are just talking about general events involving the future, don’t use “will.” The event could be later today or years from now. In these sentences, we’ll use “going to.” Remember, use “will” when you want to be sincere or dramatic, or for when you have a spontaneous decision. For example, if I say:
“I think I’ll get married someday.”
Because we used “will,” it carries the meaning of something you are thinking about spontaneously. Maybe you are talking to someone and the subject just came up. Oh sure, you think, I’ll get married someday. Why not?
But if I’ve been thinking about it and I want to express something that is more of a plan, something I’ve thought about a lot, I could say:
“I think I’m going to get married.”
This is more concrete, more of a firm decision. There is a difference in feeling here.
Remember, don’t use “will” if you are not making a sincere promise, if it’s not a spontaneous condition, or if it is not an “if” condition. Here are some more examples:
1. I will eat dinner with friends.
This isn’t spontaneous, it’s something you have planned. It’s also not a situation where you need to be dramatic or sincere. You are talking about a general event regarding the future, so “going to” is the verb you want to use. “I’m going to eat dinner with my friends.
2. I will take a test tomorrow.
What do you think? Is this the best way to say it? No, not really, even though it is grammatically correct. This isn’t a promise, or something we need to be dramatic about. It’s also not a spontaneous decision or an “if” condition. Better to say, “I’m going to take a test tomorrow.”
3. I will study English more.
Is this a promise? It could be. But it’s probably not a spontaneous decision, and it’s not an “if” condition. Since it sounds like something you have probably been thinking about for a while, it’s better to say, “I’m going to study English more.”
4. I will walk my dog.
What do you think? Is this the best way to say this thought? No, because it’s probably not a promise or a spontaneous decision. It’s not an “if” condition because I didn’t say anything about the weather. This is probably something you do every day and plan it into your schedule. Better to say, “I’m going to walk my dog.”
5. I will read a book.
Again, not a promise, not spontaneous, and not an “if” condition. Tomorrow I’m going to read a book, that’s my plan this weekend.
6. I’ll sleep in.
Again, this sounds like something you are planning to do. Better to say, “I’m going to sleep in.”
What are you doing this weekend?
I’m going to sleep in, I’m going to relax, and I’m going to read a book. Then, I’m going to walk my dog and I’m going to do my homework.
Now I’m going to give you some homework! Express your plans for the weekend using “going to.” Also, practice using “will” in those three specific situations we talked about.
So let’s review!
Use will in the three situations we talked about:
2. Spontaneous decisions
3. “If” conditions.
Remember, this really depends on the way you want to describe the event. What do you want to express? What is your intention? I hope you can see that if it’s something you have planned to do, it sounds much more natural to say “going to.”
We also talked about pronouncing “going to” as “gonna.” Here’s another video that can help you use “gonna” and its sister, “wanna,” correctly!
I hope this lesson clarified any confusion you might have about these two ways of expressing the future! Don’t forget, you can get more tips like this one by signing up for my free email newsletter. We can stay in touch with each other more easily this way, if you’re busy and you’d like me to help you reach fluency. Thanks for watching and I hope you have a great day!