Oftentimes we will find ourselves in conversations where we may share our future plans or talk about the future, but which future tense do we use? To be fair, there is a slight difference but learning the difference and knowing when to use the proper future tense will impact your ability to speak and sound like a native English speaker. So let’s explore the difference between “going to” and “will”.
When we use “going to” in a sentence or conversation, it means we will be predicting an immediate future action because:
- A) we have made the decision before speaking.
- B) we have made the decision based on future fact(s).
- C) it describes something that is going to happen or is about to happen.
“I am going to make coffee, would you like some?”
“We are going to the park later to watch the sunset with our friends.”
“His car broke down this morning so he is going to be late for the meeting now.”
“He is going to take the IELTS exam next month.”
“I’m unable to hang out this weekend. I’m going to help babysit my sister’s children.”
When we use “will”, it has a far future, determined and action-oriented connotation because:
- A) it is a decision made while speaking or writing.
- B) the decision is based on personal experience and/or opinion.
- C) it expresses a spontaneous future plan.
- D) it is a promise.
“On second thought, I will go to the concert with you.”
“Will you marry me?”
“I’m suddenly hungry! I will leave now and go to the cafe for lunch.”
“I will go to sleep early tonight so I can watch the sunrise.”
“I will join the company’s baseball team this season.”
“My New Year resolution is to visit three countries this year. I will need to do a lot of research to reach this goal.”
“The service was not very good. I won’t be returning to this restaurant.”
“Are you free to meet up this Friday night? I’ll buy you dinner.”
“I won’t be joining the volleyball league this summer because of my broken arm.”
Can you think of examples where you have used “going to” and “will”? The best way to know the difference is to write them down and practice differentiating the use of each future tense. If you’re still unsure, you can use various online resources like this one or work on exercises and course material with a tutor. Cambly tutors are native English speakers and they have a wide variety of experience to offer their students. If you aren’t signed up with Cambly yet, you can do that here and get started right away. You’ll even get 15 minutes free!
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In summary, “will” is generally used for far future plans than “going to”, which is immediate and referring to an action you will do now, soon, or tomorrow.
Author: Grace Armani, Cambly Tutor
If you’d like to keep this conversation going with Grace, give her a call on Cambly or make a reservation with her here: https://www.cambly.com/en/student/tutor/Grace%20Armani