Future tense

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In linguistics, a future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by a verb as not having happened yet, but expected to in the future.

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Future tense in English

In English, as in most Germanic languages, there is no future tense in the sense of a specific inflection that marks a verb for futurity after the fashion of the markers that appear in the preterite forms of the past tense. Rather, the future tense is marked by the use of a number of auxiliary verbs.

The verb shall formerly appeared as a future tense marker. It is now becoming obsolescent in that function, but appears in a desiderative function with subjunctive force in legal ordinances and similar documents:

  • Each animal carried in an aircraft shall be confined in a container ...

and in strong declarations of intent or resolve:

  • (W)e shall fight (http://wikiquote.org/wiki/We_shall_fight_them_on_the_beaches) on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...

Now will serves as the ordinary marker of the English future tense. The former distinction between shall and will may have been levelled due to the reduction, in most ordinary speech, of either form to the contraction 'll. See shall for a discussion on where properly to use these two auxiliary verbs.

The verb phrase be going to also marks a future construction in English; it too is frequently contracted. Going-to future marks future planned activity and prediction based on fact. For example: I am going to do my homework tomorrow. It is going to rain on Wednesday.

There are other forms expressing futurity in English, videlicet:

  • be to (fixed and inevitable event or change in the future, and in reporting of news, frequently in the passive; "The government is to introduce new taxes." "The health inspector decreed that the factory is to be closed until proper sanitary conditions are met.")
  • be likely (to express likelihood; "It is very likely for them to make up another feeble excuse when they get back")
  • other modal verbs and structures:
    • "I might ring you — so long as I find the time."
    • "You could go to the cinema with them later on."
    • "There is every/little likelihood that she will fail the exam."

The Future Perfect is used for actions finished before a point in the future, usually recognised by the time adverbial phrase's containing by or next.

    • By this time next week, we will have been going to school for 14 years already!
    • By 2020, aircraft will most certainly have passed the speed of sound whilst carrying passengers throughout our world.
    • Next Wednesday, I will have been working here for one entire month.

Future tense in Latin

The future tense forms in Latin varied by conjugation. Here is a sample of the future tense for the first conjugation verb 'amare', 'to love'.

 amabo     I will (shall) love
 amabis    You (singular) will love
 amabit    He, she, it will love
 amabimus  We will love
 amabitis  You (plural) will love
 amabunt   They will love

This method of producing the future tense in Latin was replaced in the Romance languages by another form using the infinitive plus an ending.

Future tense in French

French has three forms of future tense: the futur proche, the futur simple, and the futur parfait

Futur simple

The futur simple is made by simply taking the infinitive of the verb and adding the correct form of avoir (to have) to the end of the word. In the nous and vous form of the word, the ending is instead just -ons and -ez, respectively. However, there are also some French verbs for which an irregular stem is used, such as aller (to go, futur simple stem = ir) and etre (to be, futur simple stem = ser). For instance:

 Je mange     I eat
 Je mangerai  I will eat 
 Nous allons  We go
 Nous irons   We will go

The futur simple usually refers to events that will happen further away in time than the futur proche.

Futur proche

The futur proche uses the correct present form of aller (to go) and then has the infinitive after: je mange, je vais manger = I eat, I will eat.

Notice that the futur proche, which resembles the be-going to future, actually translates as the will future, while the futur simple is the opposite!

Futur parfait

Equivalent of English I will have [verb]. Formed by using the future form of aller or ętre, plus the past participle.

Examples: J'aurai fini = I will have finished

         Il aura mangé = He will have eaten
         Je serai parti = I will have left
         Il sera venu = He will have come

Future Tense in Spanish

In Spanish, there are three main tenses that describe the future: the futuro simple, futuro con "ir", and the futuro perfecto.

Futuro Simple

The futuro simple is formed by, excluding the irregular verbs (e.g. querer, to want, or salir, to go out), appending the following to the end of the infinitive form of a verb:

Ending Verb Form
1st person singular
-ás 2nd person informal singular
3rd person singular, 2nd person formal singular
-emos 1st person plural
-áis 2nd person informal plural
-án 3rd person plural, 2nd person formal plural

The English equivalent is "will/shall verb."

Irregular Stems of the Futuro Simple

Irregular stems include:

Verb (Meaning) Stem
salir (to go out) saldr-
venir (to come) vendr-
tener (to have) tendr-
poner (to put) pondr-
poder (to be able) podr-
valer (to be worth) valdr-
haber (to have) habr-
saber (to know) sabr-
caber (to fit) cabr-
hacer (to do, to make) har-
decir (to say, to tell) dir-
querer (to want) querr-

Note that these irregular stems are also used in the conditional tense.

Futuro con "Ir"

The futuro con "ir" is, as its name implies, formed by using the present form of ir, to go, the preposition a, and the infinitive form of the desired verb. Usually, this translates in English as "to be going to verb."

Futuro Perfecto

The futuro perfecto is formed by using the simple future form of the verb haber, to have, and the past participle of the desired verb.

The English equivalent is "will have past participle of verb."

See also: past tense, present tense, grammatical aspect.

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