Posted in English language
04/06/2019

No future tense

Although there are several ways to construct a future meaning in English, there is no stand-alone future tense. We share this apparent oddity with many other languages ~ German, Swedish, Fijian, Afrikaans, Persian, to name but a few. English verbs take four forms. For example: speak(s), speaking, spoke, spoken. There is no further adjustment we can make to the root verb, speak. These forms give us the present and past, but not a future tense.

Here are the most common ways to talk about the future in English:-

SYNTAX EXAMPLE
will + bare infinitive You will succeed!
shall + bare infinitive We shall see.
present ‘be’ + going + full infinitive I am going to cry.

Naturally, the context of the sentence should indicate which time period is appropriate and additional information such as ‘tomorrow’, ‘next year’ or ‘on Wednesday at 2pm’ is extremely helpful. There are many other languages with no tenses at all ~ Indonesian, Malaysian, Mandarin Chinese and many native American languages, for instance. These rely entirely on the context, so English is not unusual at all in this respect.

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