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Other Ways to Express Future



Mouse-over Spanish text fragments in red to see English translation
La forma más común para expresar una idea futura en español es utilizando el futuro de indicativo. Ahora bien, existen otras formas de expresar esas ideas futuras, usando otros tiempos verbales o perífrasis verbales, que mantienen la idea de futuro.

1. Presente de indicativo. The present tense can have a future value, especially when we talk about schedules, or when we talk about plans in the future that are fixed like a timetable. It can also be used to express upcoming facts as closest to the speaker.

El tren sale a las ocho y media.
The train leaves at 8.30.

Este fin de semana nos vamos de excursión a la montaña.
This weekend we are going on a trip to the mountain.

Empiezo un nuevo trabajo el lunes.
I start my new job on Monday.


2. Ir a + infinitivo. The perífrasis verbal "ir a + infinitive" is the equivalent of the English structure "going to + verb".

Uses: 2.a The speaker has the certainty that something will happen inminently

El cielo está muy nublado. Va a llover.
The sky is cloudy. It's going to rain.

2.b Intention of the speaker to do or not to do something

Estoy muy cansado. Voy a sentarme. I'm really tired. I'm going to sit down.

He estado esperando a Juan por media hora. No voy a esperarle más.
I've been waiting for Juan for half an hour. I'm not going to wait for him anymore.

Notice that, in some cases, the use of the present tense, the future tense and "ir a + infinitive" are interchangeable with no difference in meaning.

Presente: Este fin de semana voy al cine con Luis.
Future: Este fin de semana iré al cine con Luis.
Ir a + infinitvo: Este fin de semana voy a ir al cine con Luis.


3. There are other expressions that don't relate so explicitly with the idea of future but still can be used to express plans, intentions and desires.

3.a Futuro perifrástico (tener que + infinitivo) This form is also used as an obligation, but in its meaning, gives an idea of future rather than present.

Me duele mucho la espalda. Tengo que ir al médico.
My back hurts so badly. I have to go to the doctor.

It doesn't mean that you have to go to the doctor now, but you will have to go to the doctor if you want to relief your backache. Notice that the verb tener can be conjugated also in the future tense "tendré que ir al médico" (I will have to go to the doctor) or using the perífrasis ir a + tener que" voy a tener que ir al médico" (I am going to have to go to the doctor). As we said at the end of point 2, they are interchangeable with no difference in meaning.

3.b Estar a punto de (hacer algo) "To be about to (do something)", connects the future to the present, by saying that you are about to do something, though you haven't started doing it yet.

Estoy a punto de salir de casa. ¿Puedes llamarme más tarde?
I'm about to leave home. Can you call me later?

This person hasn't left home yet, is going to leave home in a few minutes. But notice the idea of inminent future connected to the present.

3.c Querer o tener la intención de (hacer algo) "Want to, or intend to (do something)", use it when you want to express future plans that you are hesitating to do now.

Quiero tener una casa muy grande y tres hijos cuando sea mayor.
I want a big house and three kinds when I get older.

Tengo la intención de entrar en la universidad el año que viene.
I intend to go to college next year.

Notice that this thoughts or desires are said now in the present, but they all will be done in the future.