Grammar > Verb tenses > Future continuous

Future continuous

By Alena Lien, 7 Oct 2020

Other phrases and tenses that are used to talk about the future (i.e. present simple and present continuous with future meanings, "going to" and future simple) are usually used to imply when decisions and arrangements are made for the future. The emphasis for the future continuous is about what's happening in the future.

Content:

Form

Affirmative sentences

These are usually formed with the subject followed by "will" and "be," and the present participle form (or -ing form) of the main verb.

 

Will can be contracted with pronouns:

  • I will =         I'll

  • You will =   You'll

  • We will =    We'll

  • They will = They'll

  • He will =        He'll

  • She will =      She'll

  • It will =           It'll

[subject] + ["will be"] + [present participle of main verb]

 

  • "At 7pm, they'll be having dinner."

  • "I'll be relaxing at a beach this time next week."

Negative sentences

 

These are formed with "will not be," and this can be contracted to "won't be."

 

[subject] + ["will not be/won't be"] + [present participle of main verb]

 

  • "Unfortunately Eve won't be coming to the conference."

Questions

 

These are formed starting with "will" or with question words.

 

Question words are:

  • Who

  • What

  • When

  • Why 

  • Where

  • Which

  • How

 

["will"] + [subject] + ["be"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["will"] + [subject] + ["be"] + [present participle of main verb]

 

Again, it is possible to have the verb "to be" as both the auxiliary and main verb. 

 

  • "Will he be working tomorrow?"

It is possible to make negative questions even though their use is quite specific. The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. However, contracted forms are preferred in general.

 

Contracted form:

["won't"] + [subject] + ["be"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question words] + ["won't"] + [subject] + ["be"} + [present participle of main verb]

 

  • "Won't he be working tomorrow?"

  • "Why won't she be joining us for dinner?"

 

Full form: 

["will"] + [subject] + ["not be"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["will"] + [subject] + ["not be"] + [present participle of main verb]

 

  • "Will he not be working tomorrow?"

  • "Why will she not be joining us for dinner?"

Uses

1.   To refer to temporary actions or events in progress at a particular time in the future.

 

  • "I'll be driving to my friend's after this."

  • "We'll be flying to Malaysia next week."

 

2.   To make predictions.

 

This is similar to the future simple.

 

  • "I think it'll be raining later."

  • "Wally will most likely be working tomorrow."

 

Interestingly, you can use this to guess what is happening in the present.

  • "Wally will probably be having lunch at the moment."

  • "Most likely, they'll be having a meeting in the boardroom right now."

3.   To make polite enquiries.

 

  • "Will you be attending the wedding?"

  • "When will they be arriving from the airport?"

 

4.   To refer to scheduled future events.

 

  • "Wally will be giving a lecture next week on the effects of climate change."

  • "The train will be arriving soon."

Timeline

A way of thinking about how to use continuous tenses is by asking "At this time, what is happening?" This is the same for both the present and future continuous tenses. 

 
 
 
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Comparison to other future tenses/phrases

Future continuous vs future simple

Future continuous:

  • "At 7pm, we'll be having dinner."

This means that at 7pm, we're in the middle of having dinner.

Future simple:

  • "At 7pm, we'll have dinner."

This means when it is 7pm, that's when dinner starts.

The future continuous and future simple can be interchangeable if the time reference is kind of vague.

 

Future continuous:

  • "They'll be launching the website this afternoon."

 

Future simple:

  • "They'll launch the website this afternoon."

 

 

Future continuous:

  • "It'll be raining later."

Future simple:

  • "It'll rain later."

Future continuous vs "I do," "I'm doing," & "going to"

The future continuous can be used interchangeably with other phrases when talking about the future - with subtle differences

 

Future continuous:

  • "I'll be meeting Jake for lunch."

 

Present simple (future):

  • "I meet Jake for lunch."

 

Present continuous (future):

  • "I'm meeting Jake for lunch."

 

Going to:

  • "I'm going to meet Jake for lunch."

Future continuous:

"The train will be arriving at 1pm."

 

Present simple (future):

"The train arrives at 1pm."

 

Present continuous (future):

"The train is arriving at 1pm."

 

Going to:

"The train is going to arrive at 1pm."