English Future Continuous Tense: What It Is and How to Use It
Take a moment to imagine what you’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon.
It’s even better if you have plans (but you don’t need to). You can make a prediction about what you’ll be doing, too.
Do you have something in mind?
But, if I were to ask you the question: “what will you be doing tomorrow afternoon?” would you know which future tense to use in response?
Many learners tend to use the future simple tense, and while this sounds alright, if we’re discussing plans then it’s more than likely you need to use the future continuous tense instead.
The future continuous tense lets you be specific with your speech and talk about plans accurately!
Many learners will learn a tense very well and then try to make it work in every situation. I am guilty of this and sometimes it’s difficult to break these language learning habits.
But, it’s very important that we boost our communication skills by learning all the English future tenses.
Learning all of the tenses and when to use them is one of the key steps to reaching fluency!
Let’s tackle this simple tense now!
What Is the English Future Continuous Tense?
Are you a little confused about the future continuous tense?
It’s a simple tense that’s used very often in native conversations. Because of this, it’s very important that you learn the tense properly and use it in your speaking as soon as possible.
The future continuous tense is an English future tense that refers to something that’s predicted to happen in the future and will continue after this time.
Essentially, we use it to talk about continuous actions that will occur in the future.
For example, if we refer to our original question in the introduction and somebody asked you what you’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon, you could reply:
I will be studying English future tenses! / I’ll be studying English future tenses!
Both of those sentences use the English future continuous tense.
Notice how it refers to both the future and ongoing action. Also, notice how there’s an assumption that the action will be completed, even though we never said it will be.
You can use those clues to help you master this tense.
This tense is simply a statement that something is going to happen across a period of time in the future. That’s the main point of using it.
Try to think of it this way: I am using this tense to place myself in the middle of an ongoing future moment.
Similar to all English tenses, the future continuous tense has several other uses, which we will discuss below.
But, before we look at these extra uses, let’s break down the structure of the future continuous.
How to Form the English Future Continuous Tense
The future continuous tense is also known as the future progressive tense.
This tells us that the tense is used to talk about actions that will be happening in the future. Usually, the action is happening in stages, not all at once.
You might find similarities between the other continuous forms of English tenses and if this assists you in your understanding, then it’s an excellent way to remember them.
A common feature of these tenses is the use of a present participle known as the -ing form of a verb. The future continuous is no exception and uses this verb form.
To form the English future continuous tense, follow this simple pattern:
(Subject) + Will + Be + (-ing form of the root verb)
I will be eating.
The good news about this formula is that you don’t need to conjugate the verb to be.
In this case, will is known as an auxiliary verb. Because we’re making predictions about the future, we can also use the modal verb shall.
I shall be eating.
However, this sounds like an older form of English and sounds a bit old-fashioned (not modern). It could even sound a bit strange.
Please note that it’s also possible to use going to.
I’m going to be eating.
However, please note that the last two forms are less common.
For our purposes, we’re going to use will. This is for two reasons.
First is because it’s easier, and secondly, because it contracts well and contractions are a very common feature of English tenses. They also match well with the verb to be.
English Future Continuous vs. Future Simple: What’s the Difference?
As I previously mentioned, it’s possible to fall into the bad habit of learning and using the same tense again and again, even if a different tense might fit better.
That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the differences between the tenses. This will also give a much more native feel to our speaking and writing.
Take these two examples below:
I will eat at 5 pm.
In this sentence, we expect something to happen in the near future. Notice that there’s also an implied ending to the tense. We also know when the action will begin—at five o’clock!
I will be eating at 5 pm. / I’ll be eating at 5 pm.
Here we have a slightly different sentence.
The statement I will be eating at 5 pm puts the subject (I) in the middle of the action (eating).
We don’t know when the action will begin, we only know that it will begin in the future and we know that it will still be happening at five o’clock. It could be considered more of a fact than a prediction.
While the future continuous might not be as commonly used, it’s important to understand, especially for those looking to learn a high level of English.
A Quick Note About English Future Tenses
Future tenses in English generally rely on the circumstances of the individual talking just as much as the language itself.
It can’t always be reliable to examine future tenses from a simple grammatical point.
In this way, I recommend you get familiar with English future tenses in a native context. For example, you can get a language exchange partner to practice your general conversational skills. You can also experience English tenses through English media by watching TV shows and movies, listening to music and watching videos.
How to Use the English Future Continuous Tense
Now, let’s take a look at when and how to use the future continuous in English!
One of the most common uses of the future continuous tense is to describe a situation where a longer action (ongoing) will be interrupted by another shorter action (in the future).
You might like to consider this a break in time.
I will be cooking when the TV show starts. / I’ll be cooking when the TV show starts.
I will be sleeping when your plane lands at the airport. / I’ll be sleeping when your plane lands at the airport.
Do you notice what these sentences have in common?
They both use the word “when!”
When using the future continuous to describe interrupted actions, the word “when” is commonly used.
Two Ongoing Actions
These are sometimes referred to as “parallel actions.” As the name suggests, you can use the future continuous in this way to describe two ongoing actions in the future that will happen at the same time.
I will be fishing while you look for a place to stay. / I’ll be fishing while you look for a place to stay.
He will be swimming while she is sailing. / He’ll be swimming while she’s sailing.
When the future continuous tense is used this way, many sentences will use the word “while.”
How to Make the Future Continuous Negative
Forming the negative in the future continuous is very simple.
You simply need to add not before the verb “to be” and the -ing verb.
He will not be coming home too late. / He won’t be coming home too late.
They will not be studying any Shakespeare this week. / They won’t be studying any Shakespeare this week.
Forming the Interrogative: Questions and Favors
Using the future continuous tense is an excellent way to ask a polite question or even request a favor.
Remember our structure? See if you can notice a slight change below.
Will + subject + verb + to be + -ing verb
Let’s look at some example sentences:
Will you be playing football tonight?
Will we be staying in a hotel or a hostel this weekend?
Will she be arriving on time?
As you can see we have simply swapped the subject for the auxiliary verb.
To form wh- questions we can simply add our wh-word at the beginning of the sentence to transform it.
Where will you be playing football tonight?
As a Form of Reassurance
If you’re looking to politely reassure somebody of a future action that you’ll be taking, then more than likely you’ll be using the future continuous.
Well, what does this mean?
Let’s say you offered to give somebody a lift (a ride) in your car. If you’d like to politely reassure them that you’re able to give them a ride, you can say something like:
I’ll be going there (the destination) anyway!
I hope you enjoyed this post on the future continuous tense. While the future continuous tense may sometimes be overlooked, it’s a very important structure for speaking in the future with accuracy and confidence.
Best of luck!