Future Tenses "Going to" vs. "Will"

Young Students Listening to Teacher in Class

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Making the choice to use "will" or "going to" is difficult for many ESL students. This lesson focuses on providing context for students so that they can understand the basic difference between something that is planned for the future (use of "going to") and a spontaneous decision (use of "will").

Students first study a short dialog and answer some questions. After this, students give answers to a number of questions which elicit either 'will' or 'going to'. Finally, students get together for some small talk to practice.

ESL Lesson Plan

  • Aim: Developing a deeper understanding of the use of the future with 'will' and 'going to'
  • Activity: Dialog reading, follow-up questions, small talk
  • Level: lower-intermediate to intermediate


  • Start the lesson by asking some questions with 'will' and 'going to'. Be sure to mix the questions up. For example:​ What do you think will happen at school tomorrow?, What are you going to do after school today?, What will you do if you don't understand this lesson?, Where are you going to travel on your next vacation?
  • Ask students to reflect on the questions you asked. Which forms did you use? Can they explain why?
  • Pass out the dialog and ask the students to read through and answer the questions.
  • As a group, correct the questions and ask students to explain why certain questions used 'will' and others 'going to'. A further possibility is to ask students to highlight the sections of the dialog that used 'will' and those that used 'going to'. Ask them to explain why.
  • Have students write out answers to the question sheet. Go around the room to help individual students and check that students are answering using the correct form.
  • As a class, elicit answers from various students. When appropriate, ask students to elaborate on their answers in order to give them a further chance to use these forms.
  • Ask students to use the small talk questions with each other in pairs or in small groups.

Optional homework: Ask students to prepare a short paragraph on their future plans for study, hobbies, marriage, etc. (Use of 'going to'). Ask them to write out a few predictions about the future of their lives, the country, the current political party, etc. (future with 'will')

Dialogue Exercise 1: The Party

  • Martha: What horrible weather today. I'd love to go out, but I think it will just continue raining.
  • Jane: Oh, I don't know. Perhaps the sun will come out later this afternoon.
  • Martha: I hope you're right. Listen, I'm going to have a party this Saturday. Would you like to come?
  • Jane: Oh, I'd love to come. Thank you for inviting me. Who's going to come to the party?
  • Martha: Well, a number of people haven't told me yet. But, Peter and Mark are going to help out with the cooking!
  • Jane: Hey, I'll help, too!
  • Martha: Would you? That would be great!
  • Jane: I'll make lasagna!
  • Martha: That sounds delicious! I know my Italian cousins are going to be there. I'm sure they'll love it.
  • Jane: Italians? Maybe I'll bake a cake...
  • Martha: No, no. They're not like that. They'll love it.
  • Jane: Well, if you say so... Is there going be a theme for the party?
  • Martha: No, I don't think so. Just a chance to get together and have fun.
  • Jane: I'm sure it'll be lots of fun.
  • Martha: But I'm going to hire a clown!
  • Jane: A clown! You're kidding me.
  • Martha: No, no. As I child, I always wanted a clown. Now, I'm going to have a clown at my own party.
  • Jane: I'm sure everyone will have a good laugh.
  • Martha: That's the plan!

Follow-Up Questions

  • What do they think about the weather?
  • What does Martha have to share?
  • What are Peter and Mark going to do?
  • What does Jane offer to do?
  • How does Jane react to the news about the Italian cousins?
  • What special plan is there?
  • Why does Martha want a clown?
  • Does Martha know exactly how many people are going to come? If yes, how many. If not, why not?
  • How does Jane think people will react to the clown?
  • Is there a theme for the party?

Dialogue Exercise 2: Questions

  • Tell me about your future plans for work or study.
  • What important event do you think will happen soon?
  • Your friend needs some help with some homework. What do you say?
  • Tell me about your plans for this coming summer.
  • Complete this sentence: If I don't understand this exercise ...
  • What do you think future English lessons will be about?
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Future Tenses "Going to" vs. "Will"." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/future-with-going-to-and-will-1211071. Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). Future Tenses "Going to" vs. "Will". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/future-with-going-to-and-will-1211071 Beare, Kenneth. "Future Tenses "Going to" vs. "Will"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/future-with-going-to-and-will-1211071 (accessed March 31, 2023).