The Future: ‘will’ vs ‘be going to’

What is the difference between will and ‘be going to?

There are various ways to talk about the future. The most commons grammatical structures used to refer to the future are will and ‘be going to’. These frequently appear in classroom texts books. That said, there are also other future forms that will be discussed elsewhere.

Both forms have similarities and differences. In order to make the distinction between will and be going to, it is important to look at each structure, individually and then together.

‘be going to’


The form is simple. Use the ‘be’ verb directly followed by going to + the base form of a verb (sometimes referred to as the bare infinitives) 

                                                be going to + base verb

            For example:

·         I am going to work.

·         I’m going to look for a new flat to live in.

·         She is going to be a famous.



1. Intention

‘be going to’ can be used to talk about futures plans and intentions (things we would like/ want to do). When using this structure to talk about future intentions, the decision regarding the plans have already been made. Usually, the person making the decision has done some planning, made inquiries or arrangements in order to make the intentions become reality.


For example:

·         My sister is going to be a professional music when she finishes her course.

·         I‘m going to look for a new place before my rent runs out.

·         I‘m going to travel around India next month.


In each case, the decision to make these plans was NOT done at the time of speaking but thought about and then spoken about.


2. Predictions

‘be going to’ can also be used to make predictions about things that we think is very likely (almost certain) to happen or as Carter, R., McCarthy, M., Mark, G., & O’Keeffe, A., (2011, p.212) states, “which we have evidence for now”.


            For example:

·         It’s going to rain again soon. (The person speaking can probably see dark rain clouds)

·         Watch out! He is going to knock over that glass. ( The person speaking can probably see someone about to bump into the glass)


3. Commands

Lastly ‘be going to’ is used to give commands. While it is more common to used imperatives to give commands, this future structure can do same.


            For example:

Imagine the following situation. You are a parent and you have a 16-year-old boy who is not very tidy. As the parent, you have given the child lots of warning about cleaning their room and making sure that itis neat and tidy. Then, one day you, the parent, walk into the child’s room and see a big mess. So, you command the child to clean up:


            “You’re going to pick up all of those toys and clothes right now. This room is amess!”


             “Mr! You’re going to clean this room or else!


As mentioned before ‘will’ is structure that is used to talk about the future.



‘Will’ is a modal verb which means the base form of the main verb must always follow it.


                                                ‘will’ + base verb


            For example:

·         I will go to class this afternoon.

·         I’ll have breakfast.




1. Predictions

‘Will’ can be used to make prediction about to state facts about the future

             For example*:

·         There will be strong winds tomorrow in the south of the country.

·         The year 2025 will be the four-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the university.


                        *Note: Examples are taken from Carter, R., McCarthy, M., Mark, G., & O’Keeffe, A., (2011, p.214)


2. Decisions and offers


Similar to ‘be going to’, will is also used to refer to decisions that have been made.


            For example*:


                        [ a salesperson in a clothes shop is talk to a customer]

                        A: Which size do you want? Medium or large?

                        B: I‘ll have a large. (decision)


                        “Wait. I’ll open the door for you.” (offer)

                        NOT: Wait. I open the door for you.


            *Note: Examples are taken from Carter, R., McCarthy, M., Mark, G., & O’Keeffe, A., (2011, p.214)


What is the difference then?


The key difference is that when ‘will’ is used it indicates that a decision was made at the moment of speaking and no time was given to make or arrange plans unlike with ‘be going to’.


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