the future tenseIt may come as a surprise to learn that the English language contains some complexity. We are always told that it is a rather simple language as it has no masculine, feminine or neuter to worry about. Neither does it have special grammatical structures such as the subjunctive in French or the accusative and dative prepositions in German. Surprisingly, there is no conditional tense either. This is vocabulary driven in English by the use of modals.

So really all we are left with is are past, present and future and the four tense forms. Simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous. Except for one small, tiny little problem. There is no future tense in English.

Rubbish you say? Well if a tense is defined as a conjugation of an infinitive verb, then no. We know that the bare infinitive with ‘s’ for the third person is present and past is clearly designated by ‘ed’. But future? No. English uses ‘will’ to designate simple future. So it’s not by definition, a tense.

The good news is however, that although English lacks a real future tense, it makes up for this deficiency by having sixteen future forms. Yes. SIXTEEN!

So all you writers and grammarians out there might want to see how you go with finding all these forms. Here are two to get you started. So what are the other fourteen?

Will – She’ll be here soon.– Prediction

Going to – Look, it’s going to rain. – Prediction with evidence.

Give up? Alright. Click here to find all sixteen forms of the English future.

Back To The Future
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3 thoughts on “Back To The Future

  • 19/01/2011 at 7:07 pm

    *sigh* Derek, you always seem to make my brain hurt in some way. And are solely responsible for turning me into a grammar geek. You created a monster!

  • 31/07/2011 at 7:40 am

    Interesting! I hadn’t thought about it this way; but I suppose we need to add #17 for us southern rednecks: “fixin’ to,” as in, “I was fixin’ to go to bed, until I saw that Vandal dude had another interesting post.”

    • 31/07/2011 at 8:19 am

      Well Christy, looks like I’ll be fixin’ to update my list and add another future form!

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