Grammar. 14.10.2011
Grammar Teacher

Future forms (for upper-level students)

Автор: Grammar Teacher

 Although we often talk about "future tenses", technically there are no future tenses in English - only different ways of talking about the future, using special constructions, other tenses or modal verbs. And if you are more or less familiar with forms like “will”, “be going to”, Present Simple and Present Continuous, in this post I would like to present you other ways of expressing the future, such as: 

be + to + infinitive;
be + due to + infinitive;
be + about to + infinitive;
be + on the point of + gerund.

1. be+ to + infinitive
Look at these newspaper headlines:

You may know by now that normally headlines in English are often incomplete (auxiliary verbs and articles are dropped, simple tenses are used instead of continuous or perfect forms, etc). In the above examples the verb “to be” is dropped in all three headlines and all of them refer to the future. So practically:

  •  The EU is to press for Mid-East role = EU is going to press for Mid-East role.
  • A rector is to be closed = A rector is going to be closed.
  • A new head set is to take charge = A new head set is going to take charge.

But it doesn’t mean that we can use ‘be to’ interchangeably (взаємозаміно). Statements such as I'm going to faint or It's going to rain cannot be expressed with be to’. ‘BE TO’ has restricted uses:

1.Formal arrangements/public duties:

·         OPEC representatives are to meet in Geneva next Tuesday.
·         {C}The factory is to close for three weeks for repairs
·         {C}She is to become the youngest Member of Parliament in our history.

2.Formal appointments/instructions:

·      {C}You are to deliver these flowers by 10.
·      {C}I am to be there by 8.
·      {C}All students are to assemble in the hall at 9.00.

This second use of “BE TO” means that the person who uses is to/are to is giving orders and instructions in a formal way or is regulation behavior just as if he/she was using modal verbs ‘SHOULD’ or ‘MUST’. So You are not to cross the road without me! sounds just as instructive as You shouldn’t/mustn’t cross the road without me!

2. be + due to +infinitive

Be due to + infinitive can be used to express actions that should happen by a certain time. Often used with timetables. 

The plane is due to arrive in half an hour.

Clare’s due to have her operation in three week’s time.

Due may be used without infinitive as well. For example: be due at.

If something is due at a particular time, it is expected to happen, be done, or arrive at that time.

The results are due at the end of the month.
The train is due at 7.

2. be + about to +infinitive, be + on the point of/be on the verge of+gerund
These forms are used to refer to something that will happen very soon, in the immediate future. 
They are about to leave.                They are on the point of leaving
I think the play is about to start now.        Mary is on the verge of resigning.


All these forms are more common in written English, especially in newspaper reports and to refer to events which will happen in the near future. 
They can also be used in the past tense to refer to an event which was expected to happen at appoint in what was then the future (this use is known as “the future in the past”). Look:
Extract from a report: He was about to leave for the airport when he found that he’d left his passport in the hotel safe.
Extract from a novel: Jane had been invited for tea to the hall of residence. If the weather was fine, it was to take place on the lawn in front of the college.
Below you can see a story with some examples of how you can express the future. Those which are in bold are the phrases we’ve learn today.


I want you to imagine that you are about to visit a small village. It doesn't matter which country it's in because all villages are the same whichever part of the world they are in. There were only about 300 inhabitants in total in this particular village and everyone knew everybody's business. A typical street conversation would run like this: "I hear Joan's going to have a baby next year. I expect it'll be a boy this time I wouldn't be surprised. She's having a nurse come next week to help her with her 5 girls and maybe a boy will make life easier for her!" In this village people usually help each other whenever they can. If someone is going to the "big" town — that is where there are more than a thousand people living in it — invariably they will say to their neighbours: "I'll get you some vegetables, if you like". But it's not all sweetness and light here because there is a longstanding feud going on between two families. I'll let the local gossip, Mary tell you the background. "It must be ten years ago when it all started. I doubt it'll ever stop", she laughed when she said that. "But then I've been told I am to tell you the beginning of it all and also you are to listen, remember. There are two women who are always arguing about something. One of them lives in that huge house over there. Don't look now because she'll open her front door in a minute. She's going to catch the 9.15 bus that goes in ten minutes from that stop there. Now, she's a fine lady, she is. She's due to become a councilor next month after the elections and she'll probably make a good job of it. Now hold on a second the other lady is leaving her house in a minute. Yes, what did I say? She's going to catch the bus too but she'll get on at the next stop to avoid meeting the councilor lady. Now the second lady runs a small restaurant, as a matter of fact I'm taking lunch there later today." I asked Mary why these two women didn't get on. She looked me straight in the eye and said: "Jealousy. One runs a successful restaurant and the councilor lady runs a small guesthouse. Both of them are going to make a lot of money this year because of the festival but the guesthouse lady will make more and she always has done and that's the cause of the trouble."

Now what I haven't told you", continued Mary, "and I'm just about to reveal it, is that there are two other people in the story. Namely the son of one of the ladies and the daughter of the other. And yes, they are getting married next year and the whole village will be invited. It's going to be a big affair" I interrupted Mary at this point and asked her what had happened to the feud. "Oh that doesn't matter much now" continued Mary "they'll be too busy making arrangements for the wedding. They're due to meet a catering firm this morning". "So what's all this about separate bus stops?" I asked. "Oh, that's just for the tourists who are coming here next month." I tried to understand but had one more question: "And what about jealousy?" — "Now, you're not to worry about her. There are plenty of villages round here and she'll soon find another one to visit and cause trouble in" I thanked Mary and walked away, totally confused thinking to myself; "I shall never understand village life."

And finally a piece of music for you (can you hear the construction we’ve just learned?)


This is it for today. Hope, you discovered something new!

This is it for today. Hope, you discovered something new!

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