Centre for Applied Linguistics & Language Education

An Inventory and Discussion of English Futurity

When do you use shall versus will?  And what is the difference between ‘will read’ and ‘going to read’?

Years of teaching English to non-native speakers has given me a sort of insider’s view into this shall versus will phenomenon.  What I have found is that asking any two native-speaking English instructors when to use a certain grammatical or lexical construction will often result in three, four, five, or more often conflicting ‘rules.’  What this shows is that not only do students of the language not generally understand the grammar, but most often native speakers and in also those tasked with teaching the language do not fully understand the grammar and proper rules of usage.  In surveying speakers of the language, teachers, and the content of method books and grammar guides, it has become quite obvious to me that in regard to futurity in English this confusion and uncertainty goes well beyond the simple issue of shall versus will but that it extends to the entire spectrum of future forms.

This paper discusses the role of tense, aspect, and mood in expressing future in English.  It discusses at length the ten ways of expressing the future and provides detailed rules on the usage of forms such as shall, will, be going, be about, etc.

It dispels folk etymology and opinionated theories on when to use one form or the other, instead providing a thorough inventory of all forms with detailed discussion of the roots of these forms, historical changes, and current usage.  It is hoped that through a better understanding of the differences in these forms and their usage, that speaker and language educators may better equip themselves to teach this often challenging bit of grammar.

Click below to read the entire paper or download it to your computer:

An Inventory and Discussion of English Futurity


December 17, 2009 - Posted by | English Linguistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. May I use this in my lectures?

    Trackback by Petero Ferraz | July 12, 2011 | Reply

    • Bom Dia Petero!

      Of course you may use anything you’d like in your lectures. Please make sure to cite the source though. Also, in using the inventory documents, you may do well featuring the TAMPA articles first as they are a bit more updated than the introduction to that larger paper.



      Comment by Drew Ward | October 11, 2011 | Reply

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