The Use of Time Markers in English Part III: Future Tenses A

A typical Lutheran Church in the village of Mockern (near Altenburg, Th)

The Lord delights in the way of the man, whose steps he has made firm- Psalms 37:23

His God instructs him and teaches him the right way- Isaiah 28:26

Sometimes the future of one’s life is dependent on God’s plan. Yet in English, we don’t know what the future is unless we know the various forms of them. This is where we start our article: future tenses and where the time markers play in.

Any person would agree that the future tense deals with the modal verb will plus the base verb, regardless of how the sentence is structured- as a statement, in question form, or even in passive or active voices, like in the following sentences below:

Tom will start his job as a pastor of a local church this Sunday.   (Active)

The church will be filled with many people.  (Passive)

What will the service offer, when Tom takes over?  (Question form in active)

Yet in linguistics terms, when digging deeper into the topic of future tenses, this is where we walk into the shadow of death, not knowing who is guiding us, as there are various forms of future tenses, whose meanings have been debated among teachers, linguists and even native speakers alike. In simpler language, we have five different forms of future tense- six if we include the conditional form with would.  Aside the classic version of will, we have present-continuous, present simple, present perfect and going-to plus base verb all functioning as future tenses. Have a look at the examples below:

The church will have a potluck dinner after the service.

The church is going to have a potluck dinner after the service

The church is having a potluck dinner after the service.

The church has a potluck dinner after the service

The church will have had a potluck dinner after the service.

As we go through murky waters with the Lord guiding us, the question here is, can we make this distinction? The answer here is yes.

For almost 16 years, I’ve been confronted by students and other English non-natives on this topic as they want to know what the difference among these five types are. And I’ve done some research on this topic in order to find out whether there is a difference or not. In the end, I came up with a pair of diagrams and where the five types plus the conditional would fit:


Future Tenses

Future tense has two main functions: planning and prediction. The scales produced have to do with the possibilities that neither situation will change. That means in yellow, there is at least a 50% chance that either situation will change. If orange, a 70% chance that what’s planned or predicted will become real. Red means 85%, and black: between 97 and 100%. That means the darker you go, the more likely things will happen as planned or predicted. With going to, it means that on the one hand, what is planned will happen without any changes, but on the other hand, if there is a speculation, chances are more likely that it will remain that way. But when using will, it has three different functions:

  1. As a predictor, will can be used to implicate something that will happen given the situation that is real and unavoidable.
  2. For planning, it means that in the long term, something is being planned with a 50% chance of it not happening, yet
  3. In the short term, it serves as a knee-jerk reaction to something that occurred just now.

Examples of each:

  1. As a prediction: Look! There is a man on the church steeple! I think he will ring the bell. (He could also fix the roof, take some pictures, enjoy the view of the village, preach, etc.)
  2. For planning part I: Pastor Tom will travel to Senegal for a missionary trip next year.
  3. For planning part II: Rats! I forgot to bring my Bible to the service! Response: No worries, I’ll lend you mine.

As mentioned in the last article on Time Markers, present simple functions as a future tense based on routine and schedule, yet they also function as a plan that had been in the making for a long time and long since been concretized. Examples:

  1. The train to Lutherstadt-Wittenberg leaves at 9:00am, so you may want to hurry to attend the festival.  (Schedule, no changes unless there is a train delay)
  2. The meeting of the Cardinals takes place next week at the Cathedral. (Planned well in advance, no changes)
  3. Pastor Tom travels to Senegal next week. (Again, planned well in advance. Tickets booked, no changes expected)

Present continuous as a future tense implies a spontaneous course of action, planned at the moment or a very short time ago, and unless someone talks a person out of it, an event will happen. Here are a couple examples to help you:

Maude: I’m seeing somebody new.  (Implying the current situation also in the future)

Bob: Wait! Before you do, let’s talk to Pastor Tom about it.

Maude: It’s too late. I’m leaving you. (Implying short-term plan in future)

Bob: You can’t just leave. You’re a Catholic.

Maude: I don’t care. He’s giving me more than you ever will! (Implying the reason behind this decision in present and most likely in the future, too.) 

Author’s Note: I doubt Jesus Christ would accept such an arrangement as he rejects extramarital affairs to begin with. 😉  


Let’s have a look at the activities below:

Exercise 1: Look at the sentences below and determine whether they are based on planning or prediction. Also identify the future tense and the chances of it happening in reality.

  1. A: Wow! The temperature has climbed rapidly in the last hour! B: I think it’s going to be a hot day.
  2. After 20 years as a pastor of a church in Aue, Pastor Tom will preside over a congregation at a church in Buxtehude.
  3. The congregation there will be happy when he takes over in two weeks.
  4. The people in Aue are throwing a going away party for Tom, as they really loved his sermons.
  5. Married with three children, Pastor Tom’s family are going to join him in Buxtehude.
  6. For them, it will be their first time living in northern Germany because they spent all of their lives in Saxony.
  7. By the time Tom is in Buxtehude, the congregation in Aue will have elected his successor.
  8. Tom’s last sermon in Aue will be next week. The going-away party is to follow afterwards.
  9. The congregation is going to miss him.
  10. According to the weather report, the weather on the day of his sermon will be much cooler than today (refer to nr. 1)

Exercise 2: Complete the following sentences below, using the correct future tense. Be prepared to explain your reasons why your answer is correct. This includes determining whether the future tense is based on prediction or planning.

  1. At the same time, the church in Buxtehude__________ (celebrate)  the going-away party of departing pastor named John.
  2. John, a former basketball player from the team Baskets Bamberg, __________(go) back to his hometown to become head coach.
  3. Before that, he _______ (plan) to go on a missionary trip to Namibia.
  4. He _____________(meet) Flamingo Frank, a seven-foot Namibian basketball player, turned pastor.
  5. Flamingo wants to play basketball and therefore ________ (meet) Pastor John to talk about joining the Bamberg team.
  6. John knows Flamingo because he has watched him play several times during his stay in Africa. Henceforth it is a foregone conclusion that he _________ (hire) him and ________  (offer) a contract.
  7. Flamingo ________ (hope) that his friends ___________ (come along) to Bamberg.
  8. John’s plane to Namibia ________ (take off) at 10:00am from Munich. By the time he lands in Africa, it _________ (turn) dark.
  9. It appears that he’s ____________(have) him on the team because he has talked a lot about it lately.
  10. If Flamingo joins the team, there _________(be) pre-game prayers practices and games.

Now that you pretty much have an idea of how future tenses work, we will go to the time markers that work with future tense. Because of the length of the article, it had to be divided into two parts. Therefore, click on the picture below in order to get to the second part. 🙂




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