The Quick and Easy Guide to Spanish Future Tenses
So you can talk about the present in Spanish, you’ve finally got your head around the past tenses too, there’s only way forward… and it may cause flashbacks from high school Spanish.
So let’s go back…back to the future!
And yes, I did just add that last bit in so I could use the phrase “Back to the Future,” but it was totally worth it.
- The good news about the Spanish future
- Future form 1: How to use “going to” in Spanish
- Future form 2: How to use “will/shall” in Spanish
- Future form 3: How to express willingness in Spanish
- Future form 4: How to talk about the future with the Spanish present
- Useful time phrases to talk about the future
- How to Practice
The good news about the Spanish future
Apart from the fact that you could feasibly watch all three films of “Volver al Futuro” as part of your “homework” on this topic (yes, I just gave you permission to do so), there is even more good news about the future.
First of all, the future is relatively easy to create. Now, we aren’t actually guaranteeing that you’ll wake up tomorrow and your dreams will have miraculously come true, but we are saying that conjugating the verbs is really easy—we promise!
Secondly, the use of different future forms (the way we use going to/will/and the present tense to talk about the future) is quite similar to English, so you won’t need to get your head around any new concepts. In other words, it’s way easier than the subjunctive. We know. Phew, right?
Future form 1: How to use “going to” in Spanish
How do we make the Spanish equivalent of “going to”?
It’s very simple. Take the verb ir in the present tense. Add a and then an infinitive.
So you’ll need:
voy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van
a + infinitive
You could have a bailar, a comer, a dormir—basically any verb you like in its infinitive form.
And you get:
Vamos a bailar en la playa (We’re going to dance on the beach)
So when do you use it?
Just like in English, we use the “going to” tense whenever we are talking about things that we have already planned. We are usually talking about the near future. So even if you don’t live near a beach and this is just a normal day, a conversation might go like this:
¿Qué hacemos hoy? (What are we going to do today?)
Vamos a ir de compras. (We’re going shopping)
¿A dónde? (Where to?)
Vamos al supermercado y después a la carnicería. (We’re going to the supermarket and then the butcher)
If we’re talking about plans in the more distant future, we’ll need future form number two…
Future form 2: How to use “will/shall” in Spanish
When people talk about “the future form” in Spanish, they are often referring to this tense.
To make it, you need the infinitive. And then you need to add the following endings to it:
é, ás, á, emos, éis, án
So if we take the verb hablar, it would become:
hablaré, hablarás, hablará, hablaremos, hablaréis, hablarán.
These endings are the same whether you’re using an ar, er, or ir verb. Note that there is an accent on the first letter of every ending except the “we” form emos.
This tense is used in Spanish much like “will” is used in English. That is, we use it to make predictions about the future (Lloverá mañana – It will rain tomorrow), assumptions or guesses about the present (Estará en la cama – he’ll be in bed) and give commands (callarás – you will/shall be quiet!).
As mentioned before, we also use it to talk about the distant future. So if you want to talk about the holiday that you’ve already planned for next year (aren’t you organised!), you would say:
El año que viene iremos a Nueva York (Next year we’re going to New York)
Of course, you don’t have to book a holiday to New York to be able to use this tense—simply insert any other activity you’re going to do next year into that sentence.
The only tricky thing about this tense is that there are a few irregular verbs that may catch you out. The most common ones are:
tener = tendré
poner = pondré
decir = diré
querer = querré
hacer = haré
venir = vendré
saber = sabré
Note that these verbs follow the same pattern in their other forms (you, he/she/it, we, you, they). So he/she/it will have: tendrá. You could say, La próxima vez tendrá más sue rte (Next time she’ll have more luck) if you want to predict that your friend will win the lottery next time she buys a ticket, for example.
Future form 3: How to express willingness in Spanish
To ask someone if they are willing to do something—for example, when you want to ask someone for a favor, or whether they are willing to help you with something—you need to use the verb querer.
This might seem a bit counter-intuitive to English speakers, as generally the verb “want” suggests you desire to do something, and a willingness to do something is not always the same as wanting to do it. But this is just one of those situations where you’ll have to accept that things are different in Spanish.
To ask someone if they are willing to do something, use querer in the present tense plus the infinitive. You don’t need to use the future tense (as in future form 2).
For example: ¿Quieres ayudarme a mudarme? translates literally into “Do you want to help me move?” but actually means “Will you help me move?”
Likewise, ¿Quieren lavar mi ropa? means “will you wash my clothes?”—and whether you want to or not is quite frankly irrelevant in the eyes (or the head) of the Spanish speaker.
Bear this in mind when saying yes or no to questions that start with ¿quieres?
Future form 4: How to talk about the future with the Spanish present
We use the present to talk about the future all the time in English. Don’t believe me? Think about what you would say if I asked you what time you were leaving the house tomorrow.
Would it be “I am going to leave at 8am,” “I will leave at 8am,” or “I’m leaving/I leave at 8am”? Regardless of what time you’re leaving, you would probably use the third form.
And it’s the same in Spanish:
Salgo a las 8.
Of course, you could skip the verb altogether and just say a las 8 but that wouldn’t give you the chance to show off much Spanish, would it?
For a recap of the present tense, see this article. Otherwise, next time someone asks you in the present about something you’re planning to do, you can use the present tense to answer them. This is basically the same as using “going to”. You can choose which one to use depending on what sounds more natural in the context.
Useful time phrases to talk about the future
Now all of this is no good if you’ve forgotten how to say “next week.” That’s why we’ve compiled a little list of time words to help you along your merry future way.
mañana – tomorrow
pasado mañana – the day after tomorrow
la semana que viene – next week
el fin de semana que viene – next weekend
el mes que viene – next month
el año que viene – next year
nunca – never
un día – one day
How to Practice
There are plenty of resources out there to help you practice Spanish grammar, including the future tenses. There are exercises on the web as well as Spanish grammar apps to help you learn and review.
The best way to drill these into your mind is to see how native speakers use them. Maybe you can find a Spanish-language TV series about time travel, or just find a copy of The Time Machine in Spanish. Whatever you do, watch out for how these verbs are conjugated.
You could also use an online immersion program. FluentU, for example, takes short videos about many different topics (covering the past, present, and yes, future) and adds annotated subtitles for instant definitions and additional content for unfamiliar words.
The more resources you use, the more grammar you’ll be exposed to. The future tense comes up in all sorts of conversations, and hearing it used in context will help you remember it better.
So we hope that la próxima vez you want to talk about the futuro, you’ll have no problems at all.
¡Hasta la próxima!