The Copious Configurations of the Future Tense

headless_horseman_by_adamguzowski-d30oq2oWelcome, dear readers, to the fourth and final installment of my posts about verb tenses. I know I’ve been slacking off lately, but things have been a bit hectic, what with setting up Grammar Ghoul Press and dealing with a variety of other real world commitments.

But I’m here now, and hoping to get back into a more regular routine. To kick that off, let’s look at the Future Tense and its different forms.

Simple Future I will bury.
Future Progressive I will be burying.
Future Perfect I will have buried.
Future Perfect Progressive I will have been burying.

Simple Future

The simple future tense is used to express an action that will happen in the future. The simple future is often formed by combining the helping verbs “will” or “shall” with the base form of a verb. This form is used to express a voluntary action, a promise, or a prediction.

  • We will slay the demon.
  • You will survive the battle.
  • I shall save the princess.

However, simple future is not so simple. It can also be formed by combining the present tense of the helping verb “be” (is, am, are) with “going to” and the base form of a verb. This form is also used to express predictions, as well as to express plans.

  • Stanley the Vegetarian is going to make a very strange werewolf.
  • Buffy is going to slay the vampire at dusk.

Future Progressive

The future progressive tense is used to express an ongoing action that will happen in the future over a period of time. It is formed by combining the helping verbs “will” or “shall” with the helping verb “be” and the present participle (verb ending in –ing) of the action verb. Note that “be going to” can also be used to form the future progressive tense—unlike in the simple future, it can be used more or less interchangeably with the “will” form.

  • The monsters will be arriving any minute now.
  • The monsters are going to be arriving any minute now.

Generally, we use future progressive to talk about ongoing actions that will be interrupted by another (usually shorter) action in the future:

  • By the time you get here, the one with the tentacles will be eating townsfolk.

We can also use future progressive to describe a scene or atmosphere:

  • When Ichabod Crane arrives, the headless horseman will be stampeding through town, and a lot of people are going to be screaming.

Note: Typically, only action/dynamic verbs (and not stative verbs) use the future progressive form.

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense is used to express an action that will be finished (or perfected) in the future. Future perfect is formed by combining the helping verbs “will” or “shall” with the helping verb “have” and the past participle of the action verb. As with future progressive, “be going to” can also be used to form the future perfect tense.

Typically, we use future perfect to talk about an action that will occur before another action, or a specific time, in the future.

  • Stanley will have starved half to death by the time the tofurky is done.
  • By midnight, Buffy will have staked all the vampires.

Future Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive tense is used to express an ongoing action that will start in the future and will continue until another time that is also in the future. It is formed by combining the helping verbs “will” or “shall” with “have been” and the present participle (verb ending in –ing) of the action verb. As with future progressive and future perfect, “be going to” can also be used to form the future perfect tense.

While future perfect focuses on the action that will be interrupted, future perfect progressive focuses on the period of time that will occur before the interruption.

  • The demons will be exhausted by the time they reach the surface because they will have been digging all night.
  • By the time we reach the lair, the princess will have been locked in there for 666 days.

Note: Typically, only action/dynamic verbs (and not stative verbs) use the future perfect progressive form.

So there you have it. Past, Present, and Future. Let me know if you have any questions—or if there is a topic you’d like me to cover next.


Image credit: AdamGuzowski @ deviantART

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6 thoughts on “The Copious Configurations of the Future Tense

  1. Probably the fourth comment I’ve left tonight – I am tearing myself away from your site or I’ll read about tenses and etymology ’til dawn. This was very informative. You’ve a wonderful blog here, Suzanne.

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