If you had English grammar lessons at school, you probably learnt that to express the future, you need ‘will’.
But there are several other options, depending on whether you’re talking about a plan, an arrangement, an intention, a prediction etc.
So let’s start with a common question: ‘What are you doing next weekend?’.
How would you answer this question?
What are you doing this weekend?
That’s a question I always ask my students on Friday afternoon, and very often I get this answer:
‘I will meet my friend’.*
Do I understand the answer? Yes.
*Is it the correct answer? No.
Why not? Well, the student has clearly made plans to meet her friend (possibly arranged a time and meeting place).
So what would be better?
‘I’m meeting my friend’.
The Present Continuous is for Future PLANS when you have made ARRANGEMENTS and you know specific information like dates, times etc.
Is it ok to say
‘I’m going to meet my friend’?
Yes, but you don’t need to.
So what’s the difference between Present Continuous and ‘going to’?
There’s not much difference. Sometimes they are exactly the same.
‘Going to’ is also for plans, but when you have not made any arrangements.
e.g. I ask my students this question when I first meet them in class:
‘How long are you going to stay?’
If they are just here for a week, they could say
‘I’m leaving on Saturday’
(their flight is booked, they have a ticket, they know the time/airport etc)
or, if they have come to study at the University and have not set a leaving date:
‘I’m going to stay for 3 years’.
Is it a plan? Yes. Are they sure? Yes. Have they made any arrangements about leaving? No.
So when do I use 'will'?
Look at the question again:
‘What are you doing this evening?’
And look at these answers:
‘I’m meeting a friend’
‘I’m going to do some revision’
‘I think I’ll probably stay at home’.
So when do I use ‘will‘?
When you’re not sure, you don’t have any plans and you haven’t decided yet.
What can I use instead of ‘will’, if I’m not sure about my plans?
You can use modals like:
‘I might/may go to the cinema’.
Are there any other uses for 'will'?
‘If you can’t do your homework, I’ll help you.’
‘If you need help with your homework, I’ll help you’.
‘If you don’t do your homework, I’ll tell your mum’.
‘I can’t do my homework’. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you’.
‘If you do my homework for me, I’ll pay you’.
So you can see how they all follow the same pattern.
So what do I need in the IELTS test?
In the Speaking Test Part 1, they will probably ask you about at least one of these:
1. Your job
Do you think you’ll stay there for a long time?
2. Your studies
What are you going to do after you finish your course?
3. Your home
Do you think you will move house soon?
So of course, the answers depend on your plans.
- Make sure you have your answers ready
- Use contractions to make them sound natural
Actually, I’m leaving on Saturday.
I’m going to move to apply for a new job.
I’m planning/hoping to leave next year.
I’ll probably stay there for a while.
In Speaking Part 2, at the end of the 2 minutes, they may ask you a ‘finishing off’ question e.g.
‘And do you think you WILL do this thing you talked about?’
So just give a short but full answer e.g.
‘Yes definitely. I’ve already booked the tickets’.
In Speaking Part 3 (and Writing Task 2) you are often asked about what you think will happen in the future. e.g.
‘Do you think this will change in the future?’
For predictions, both ‘going to’ and ‘will’ are fine:
‘Absolutely. I think things will/are going to improve’.