Let’s start with a simple question: what are you doing this weekend?
1. How to Talk About Social Plans and Holidays
M: What are you doing this weekend?
K: I’m meeting some friends for lunch on Saturday, and then we’re going to the theatre.
M: Sounds good! What about Sunday?
K: Not sure. I don’t have plans yet. What about you—doing anything fun?
M: I’m going away for the weekend.
K: Really? Nice! Where are you going?
M: Berlin! I found some cheap flights.
Let’s look at some useful language you saw in this dialogue:
- What are you doing this weekend?
This is a very common question. You can change it and use it in different situations, like this:
- What are you doing tomorrow?
- What are you doing tonight?
- What are you doing next Wednesday evening?
How could you answer these three questions?
Here are some possible answers:
- I’m working in the morning, then I’m playing football in the park with some friends.
- I’m going for a beer with some people from work.
- Next Wednesday? No idea! I haven’t made any plans yet.
Can you see what verb form you need in these questions and answers?
You often need the present continuous tense. You can use the present continuous to talk about the future, even though it’s a present tense.
You can use the present continuous to talk about plans if you know where or when something will happen.
Usually, you use it to talk about the near future. However, you can also use it for plans which are further in the future, like holiday plans.
Let’s see some examples of this:
K: Are you going anywhere next summer?
M: We’re going to Cornwall. It’s the same place we go every year.
K: I’ve heard it’s beautiful there! How long are you staying there?
M: Just a week.
K: Are you going in July? I’m thinking about going, just for two or three days.
M: No, we’re going in August. Who are you going with?
K: I’m going with two old college friends.
M: Well, if you come in August, we can show you around!
K: I’m working in August, unfortunately.
Here, you heard useful questions to ask someone about their vacation plans:
- Are you going anywhere next summer?
- How long are you staying there?
- Who are you going with?
Can you answer these three questions? Pause the video and make your own answers.
Now, put your answers together in one sentence, like this:
- I’m going to Egypt for 10 days with a group of friends.
Next, add some more details about what you’re planning to do! For example:
- I’m going to Egypt for 10 days with a group of friends. We’re planning to do some sightseeing around Cairo, then we’re going to do a boat trip on the Nile.
Can you see something different in this sentence?
- We’re planning to do some sightseeing around Cairo.
- We’re going to do a boat trip on the Nile.
Here, you’re using two verbs: planning to do and going to do. Do you know why?
Let’s see the answer:
2. How to Talk About Future Plans and Goals
You use the present continuous to talk about plans if you know where or when something will happen.
That means you often need the present continuous to talk about plans in the near future.
What about plans in the future if you don’t know exactly where or when things will happen?
K: Is it true? You quit?
M: Yes! I’m done with this place, and it feels great!
K: What are you going to do now?
M: You know, first of all I’m planning to take some time to rest and recover my energy. I’ve been so stressed the last few months.
K: Sure, but then how are you going to find a new job?
M: Actually, I’d like to start my own business. I’m tired of working for other people.
K: Really? What kind of thing are you thinking of doing?
M: My dream is to have my own small marketing firm. I’m hoping to start with freelancing, and then build up from there.
Here, you saw useful phrases to talk about plans if you don’t know all the details yet. Do you remember any of the questions and phrases?
Here’s some of the key language you saw:
- What are you going to do now?
- I’m planning to take some time to rest.
- I’d like to start my own business.
- My dream is to have my own marketing firm.
You can change these sentences to fit different situations, like this:
- What are you going to do after you graduate?
- I’m planning to buy an apartment next year.
- I’d like to learn to scuba dive one day.
- My dream is to live near the sea, where it’s sunny all year round.
You can use these to talk about future plans, dreams and ideas.
What about you? What are your plans, dreams and ideas for the future?
- In the next few years, I’m going to…
- I’m planning to … in the near future.
- I’d like to … one day.
- My dream is to…
Use these templates and make four sentences about your life and your plans. Say the sentences aloud, or write them down, or both!
Now, you know how to talk about all kinds of future plans in English.
What other things do you need to talk about in the future?
3. Talking About Schedules and Timetables
M: What time does the concert start?
K: 8.00, so we need to leave at 6.30.
M: Is there a bus?
K: Yeah, I think it leaves at 6.45, and it gets there around 7.30.
M: What time does it finish?
K: It’s supposed to end at ten. The last bus back leaves at 10.15, so we’ll have to hurry.
Here, you saw us talking about schedules. Do you remember what language you heard?
You can use the present simple to talk about future schedules or timetables. For example:
- What time does the concert start?
- The bus gets there around 7.30.
- The last bus leaves at 10.15.
You can use this to talk about public transport, class timetables, work schedules, events, or anything else which runs on a timetable.
- Our class starts at eleven thirty.
- What time is your flight?
- The wedding is at three.
Now, it’s your turn! Think of three things in your life which run on a timetable. Make three sentences using the present simple.
Want an extra challenge? Make questions and answers, like this:
- What time does the train leave? It leaves at five thirty.
Pause the video and make your three sentences now. Again, write them down if you want some extra practice.
Ooh! We forgot something… a very important question.
Oh? What’s that?
You don’t remember? At the beginning: who’s going to win the next World Cup?
4. Making Predictions
What do you think?
Maybe you said something like:
- Italy will win.
- I hope Russia will win, but I don’t think they actually will.
- England definitely won’t win it.
To make predictions about the future, you can use will or won’t.
You can also use going to. You generally use going to for predictions that are not so far in the future:
- It’s going to rain—look at those clouds.
- What do you think is going to happen next?
- He’s going to be unhappy when he finds out about this.
That said, don’t worry about the difference between will and going to here. You can use both freely—no one will notice.
You can also use many other phrases to make predictions. Let’s look:
K: So, do you think they’ll do it?
M: Michelle will definitely do it. There’s no chance Andy is going to finish. He doesn’t look like he can run to the bus stop, so I can’t believe he’ll run 26 miles.
K: I don’t know. He’s been training hard. He’s unlikely to get a fast time, but I’m pretty sure he’ll do it.
M: Well, anyway, we can agree that Michelle is sure to be much faster!
K: Yeah, of course. Do you think she’ll do it in under three hours?
M: It’s not likely that she’ll do it that fast. Under three hours for a marathon is quick. But, she’s bound to get under four hours.
K: That’s still a good time.
There, we were talking about two people running a marathon, and making predictions about how they would do.
Apart from will and going to, did you notice any other language we used to make predictions about the future?
Firstly, you can modify will or going to by adding an adverb, like this:
- She’ll definitely do it.
- There’s no chance he’s going to finish.
- I’m pretty sure he’ll do it.
In this way, you can show that you’re more or less sure about your prediction.
You also heard some other phrases you can use to make predictions in the future:
- He’s unlikely to get a fast time.
- She’s sure to be much faster.
- It’s not likely that she’ll do it that fast.
- She’s bound to get under four hours.
Likely has a similar meaning to probable. Be careful, because likely is an adjective, not an adverb.
So, if you say He’s unlikely to get a fast time, you mean that he’ll probably be quite slow.
Sure to and bound to both mean that you’re absolutely certain about something. You can use them to emphasise how sure you are.
These phrases are a little less common, so you don’t want to use them all the time. However, they are good to know, so you can add variety to your spoken English.
Let’s see how you could use these phrases in some other ways:
- They’re unlikely to hire you if you have so little experience.
- It’s exactly your kind of film—you’re sure to like it.
- It’s not likely that I’ll wake up before nine.
- He’s a really good cook; whatever he makes, it’s bound to be delicious.
Note also that likely can be used with both a positive and a negative meaning. You can say It’s unlikely that… or He’s not likely to… However, sure to and bound to are always positive.
Now, it’s your turn! Pause the video and make four predictions about the future.
You could make predictions about the weather, sport, your life, or anything you like!
Make four sentences, say them aloud, and write them down if you want extra practice.
Done? Next, let’s look at one more topic you need to talk about the future.
5. Talking About Future >Possibilities
Up to now, you’ve learned how to talk about things in the future that you are certain about.
However, the future is often uncertain. How can you express this when you speak English?
K: So, do you have any idea when you’ll have finished everything?
M: It really depends. It may be ready next week if everything goes well.
K: We really need it done sooner.
M: The thing is, it’s possible that we’ll have to replace some of the artwork. That could take a few days.
K: Okay, I have to ask: why are you making such big changes so late? For a project like this, those details should be finalised by now.
M: We had some issues, but anyway, let’s focus on what we can do now. Perhaps we won’t need to change anything. In that case, it’ll definitely be finished by the end of next week.
K: Even that’s too late. Look, you need to sort this out.
M: Maybe I’ll work overtime this weekend. That might help.
K: Just do what you have to.
In this dialogue, I was an employee, and I wasn’t very sure about a lot of things. I used different words and phrases to show that I wasn’t sure. Do you remember any of them?
You can use a modal verb like may, might or could. For example:
- It may be ready next week.
- That could take a few days.
- That might help.
You can also use will with an adverb like perhaps or maybe. This has the same meaning as using verbs like might or could. For example:
- Perhaps we won’t need to change anything.
- Maybe I’ll work overtime this weekend.
Finally, you can use the phrase it’s possible that…, like this:
- It’s possible that we’ll have to replace some of the artwork.
As with all of these sentences, you can change them to express your own ideas. For example:
- I may be away next week.
- Taking a warm coat might be a good idea.
- Perhaps I’ll go to the park for a walk this afternoon.
- It’s possible that she didn’t see your message.
Now, you hopefully understand many different ways to talk about the future in English.
Thanks for watching this lesson from Oxford Online English!