New Year’s Resolutions and Revision of Future Tenses


Back To The Future

Like the beginning of every new year, here I am thinking about my resolutions for 2014. So I  thought I’d write a post on how to talk about your new year’s resolutions and, while we’re at  it, why not revise the full range of future tenses in the English language?


This is the tense you’d use to talk about your new year’s resolutions since ‘to be going to’ is used when expressing an intention:
es. This year I’m going to learn a new language.

‘to be going to’ is also used to make a prediction when there is evidence:
es. Look at those clouds! It’s going to rain (read below about making predictions not based on any evidence)


You should use this tense when talking about a fixed plan or arrangement:
es. I’m flying to London tomorrow. (= I bought the ticket so it’s a fixed plan, not a mere intention)


Use this tense when talking about something which is scheduled:
es. The train leaves at 4 o’clock.


This can come as a surprise but ‘will’ is not used to talk about future plans or intentions. Instead we use ‘will’ for:

  1. decisions on the spot: “Oh I’m late! I’ll take a taxi!”
  2. predictions NOT based on any evidence (usually with verbs like think, believe etc) : “I think she won’t pass the exam” 
  3. promises: “I’ll be there no matter what!”

FUTURE CONTINUOUS** (will/won’t+be+ -ing)

Use this tense when talking about an action that will be in progress at or around a time in the future:
es. This time next week, I’ll be lying on a beach.

FUTURE PERFECT (will/won’t+have+past participle)

When speaking about the completion of an action BY a specific time in the future, we use the ‘future perfect’ :
es. I’ll have finished this report by Friday afternoon.

FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS (will/won’t+have+been+ -ing)

Also, like with the present perfect continuous, you should use the ‘future perfect continuous’ when talking about the duration of an action in the future. 
es. By the end of this year, I’ll have been working for this company for three years.


If you’re a person (like me) who finds it difficult to make plans because you’re never sure and you need time to think about it etc. Then you can use ‘might’ when talking about plans/intentions you are not sure about:
es. I might go to the party (or I might not go, I haven’t made up my mind yet!)

** You can also use the ‘present perfect continuous’ to talk about future plans if you want to add emphasis or sound more formal:
es. Sir, when will you be arriving at the hotel?

Here’s a short letter where a mix of future tenses are used:

I’m going to Thailand tomorrow, my bus leaves at six in the morning. So this time tomorrow I’ll be lying on a beach.  But love, I promise I’ll think about you a lot and I’m going to call you as soon as I get there. I might go and see Francisca while I’m there but haven’t decided yet. Anyway, I’m also going to work on my book while there (I checked the weather forecast and it’s going to rain on Saturday). I’ll have finished the first chapter by the end of my holiday. I can’t believe I’ll have been travelling in Asia for two months by then!


What I call the “fake past” in English grammar

downloadToday I’d like to write about tenses and walk you through what I call the “fake past” in English.

In some languages you use the subjunctive to express a wish or describe an unlikely or impossible event. However, such a tense doesn’t exist in the English language.

Does that mean that everything is certain and possible in the English speaking world? Obviously not!

What happens is that you use a past tense where you would have used a subjunctive if you were Italian or Spanish. These are a few examples I could think of:

  1. I wish I was a millionaire
  2. If only the baby was sleeping
  3. I’d rather you didn’t see her tonight, I don’t like her
  4. It’s high time you went to the hairdresser, you hair is so long!
  5. If I spoke Chinese , I’d move to China

Do the above sentences refer to a present, future or past situation?

All five examples, despite the use of the past simple tense or past continuous (example 2), talk about the present or the future.

So what if you actually want to use structures such as “I wish” or “I’d rather” etc to talk about the past?

Well, you simple have to go one step further back in the chain of past tenses. So if you use the past simple to talk about the present, you’ll have to use the past perfect to describe an event or situation in the past. Here’s a few examples:

I wish I spoke English. (PAST SIMPLE)
I wish I had studied English at school. (PAST PERFECT)

I’d rather you went with her to the meeting.  (PAST SIMPLE)
I’d rather you had gone with her to the meeting yesterday. (PAST PERFECT)

If I had known you were coming, I’d have gone to the party. (third conditional)

Hope it helps!


‘Ever’ and the present perfect

6a00d8341d417153ef01116862dd4a970c-800wiUsually when as English teachers we explain the present perfect to students we take as example sentences questions with the word ever like ‘have you ever been to London?”. As a teacher I use such an example to highlight that because the student I’m asking the question to is most certainly alive (maybe bored to death but still alive), the question refers to an unfinished time. One could also add ‘in your life?’ at the end of the question to make this point clearer:

‘have you ever been to London in your life?’

For the sake of simplicity, some students end up thinking that every time they use ‘ever‘ (or the negative ‘never‘) the tense to be used is the present perfect. This is fairly normal as people often feel the need for some rules to cling to when learning a new language.

These same students when given the sentence “did you ever play/have you ever played truant* when you were at school?” and asked to choose the right option  will go for ‘have you ever’.

Even though you might usually have heard ‘ever’ used with the present perfect, in the above sentence we are talking about ‘when you were at school’** and therefore about a finished past experience. Hence, as with all events in a finished time, the right tense to use in this instance is the past simple: ‘did you ever play truant when you were at school?’.

To this question, you could answer ‘Yes, I did. ‘ or ‘No, I never did’ (if you go for the latter, you’ll obviously sound like a nerd 🙂 )

Along the same lines, if I asked you about your great-grandfather ‘did he ever take you to the stadium?’ , I would be using a past simple and assume you don’t have the longest living great-grandfather in town.

Again on the same topic, remember that ‘ever’ can also be used with the present simple when asking about your habits or everyday life like in the following examples:

‘Do you ever go to the cinema?’
‘Do you ever phone in sick when you’re not ill?’ 

I hope this post has cleared some of your doubts, folks!

*You play truant when you don’t go to school and you don’t tell your parents.
** I am assuming you’re not at school anymore, in the sense that you finished college/uni.