simple future (tense)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

simple future
There's no future tense affix in English grammar. Simple future time is expressed by the helping verb will. (Apic/Getty Images)


In English grammar, the simple future is a form of the verb that refers to an action or event that has not yet begun. As illustrated below (in Examples and Observations), the simple future is also used to make a prediction or to show ability, intention, or determination. Also called the future simple.

The simple future is expressed by placing the helping verb will or shall (or a contracted form of will or shall) in front of the base form of a verb (e.g., "I will arrive tomorrow"; "I won't leave on Wednesday").

For other ways of forming the future in English, see future tense.

Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "We are lambs in a den of wolves. We will need your help."
    (Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. Random House, 1986)

  • "The Blueskins are bigger and stronger than the Pinkies, and if they have sharp sticks which are longer than ours they will surely defeat us."
    (L. Frank Baum. Sky Island, 1912)

  • "'Wash up and eat your breakfast, Avery!' said his mother. 'The school bus will be along in half an hour.'"
    (E. B. White, Charlotte's Web. Harper, 1952)

  • "Let me make a quick call and then I will join you, if that is all right."
    (Davis Bunn, Book of Dreams. Howard Books, 2011)

  • "The old woman called to Butterbumps. 'Fool! Give us a song. A long one, I should think. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" will do nicely.'"
    (George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords. Bantam Spectra, 2000)

  • "You can set a goal to get better grades; but if you're not planning to go to college, chances are that goal won't have much meaning for you, and you probably won't reach the goal."
    (Stedman Graham, Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps for Success. Fireside, 2000)

  • "[H]e sat as if paralyzed, fear in his eyes.

    "'I'll go if you think you can get me to Ogallala,' she said. 'I'll pay you what it's worth to you.'"
    (Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove. Simon & Schuster, 1985)

  • "Shall I clean out your room and try to forget that you ever existed?"
    (Philip Roth, Sabbath's Theater. Houghton Mifflin, 1995)

  • Shall and Will
    "Shall originally meant obligation or compulsion and was a full verb (like eat, walk, and play), but now it is used only as an auxiliary, as is the modal will, which originally carried the sense of volition. Because obligations and intentions concern future conduct, and because English verbs lack a true future form, shall and will came to be used with future time, with the result that shall and will can now be used either to express modal meanings or to mark future time. There arose a set of exception-ridden rules to distinguish these two uses: one should use shall to express plain future in the first person, use will to express plain future in the second and third persons, and do the reverse to convey modal meanings. These unmanageable rules have largely been abandoned; in common usage shall is rarely used to indicate plain future and barely survives in its modal form. In the stylized context of legal drafting, shall continues to serve as a means of expressing obligations, while will expresses simple futurity."
    (Kenneth A. Adams, Legal Usage in Drafting Corporate Agreements. Quorum Books, 2001)

  • Alternative Modals
    "[I]t is in the nature of the future that we are likely to be much less certain about it than about the past and the present. Therefore, not surprisingly, in texts that are predicting future events will often alternates with modal auxiliaries which express degrees of likelihood, as in [this] extract . . .:
    Mass marketing computing systems will continue to be silicon-based, the major change being in the machine architectures used, with a very rapid take-up of parallel computing techniques. This should benefit the users of information systems. . . . Hardware-based approaches to text retrieval may require a move away from inverted files . . .. (Martyn, Vickers, and Feeney 1990: 7)"
    (Graham Lock, Functional English Grammar: An Introduction for Second Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press, 1996)