Future tense explained

In grammar, a future tense (abbreviated) is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future (in an absolute tense system), or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future (in a relative tense system).

Expressions of future tense

The concept of the future, necessarily uncertain and at varying distances ahead, means that the speaker may express the future in terms of probability or intent ; the modality of intention is usually but not always present when a future construction is used.[1] Whether future expression is realis or irrealis depends not on any objective, ontological notion of future reality, but rather on the speaker's conviction that the predicted event will at some future moment constitute reality.

In many languages there is no morphological or syntactic indication of future tense. Future meaning is supplied by the context, with the use of temporal adverbs such as "later", or "next year", etc. Such adverbs (in particular words meaning "tomorrow" and "then") can also develop into grammaticalized future tense markers.

In other languages, mostly languages of European origin, specific markers are used to indicate futurity. It is these structures which constitute the use of a "future tense." In many cases, an auxiliary verb is used. The auxiliary+verb sequence is typical of English, where "I will" or "I shall" is followed by the verb root. The auxiliary verb may also be combined with the verb root into a single word form, leading to reanalysis as a simple (one-word) future tense. This is in fact the origin of the future tense in Western Romance languages like Italian (see below). One significant deviation from this pattern, however, is to be found in Portuguese: in that language, a direct object may separate the root verb, and its syntactical marker for futurity (as in, "eu dar-lhe-ei," "I will give it"). This process can also go in the other direction.

Thus, a given language may exhibit more than one strategy for expressing futurity. In addition, the verb forms used for the future tense can also be used to express other types of meaning. For example, "will", in English, may express direct volition as well as mark the future form of a verb. The auxiliary werden "become" is used for both the future tense and the passive voice in German.

Germanic Languages

In Germanic languages, including English, the usual expression of the future is using the present tense, with the futurity expressed using words that imply future action (I go to Berlin tomorrow or I am going to Berlin tomorrow.). There is no simple future tense as such.

However, the languages of the Germanic family can also express the future by employing an auxiliary construction that combines certain present tense verbs with the simple infinitive (stem) of the verb which represents the true action of the sentence. These auxiliary forms vary between the languages.

Other, generally more informal, expressions of futurity use an auxiliary with the compound infinitive of the main verb.

English

English does not have a dedicated future tense — that is, a grammatical form that, when used, always indicates futurity — nor does it have a form that is mandatory for the expression of futurity. However, some forms are often used to express futurity.

Main forms of future implication

The most common auxiliary verbs used to express futurity are will and shall.

Prescriptive grammarians distinguish between these, preferring to express the simple future as will in the second and third persons and shall in the first person, and preferring to express obligation or determination in the opposite cases. However, in modern English worldwide, shall and will are generally used interchangeably,[2] with will being more common. See also shall and will.

Other periphrastic forms for the future include:

A periphrastic form for the immediate future is

A dialectical form in Northern England is:

In all dialects of spoken English both shall and will are commonly elided into ll (I'll go could be either "I will go" or "I shall go") so that the differences between the two have been worn down.

English also uses must, should, can, may and might in a similar way:

English often employs the simple non-past (base form or base form + s in the third person singular) to convey scheduled futurity, as in tomorrow I leave at 5:00.

The simple non-past form is mandatory for expressing the future in a dependent clause when the main clause uses will, shall, or (be) going to: I will see you when I get there (not ...when I will get there); If you build it they will come (not If you will build it...); she will not know that I am there (not ...that I will be there).

Summary of forms

To express futurity in the negative, a negative adverb such as not or never is inserted before the main verb (or the suffix -n't is added to the auxiliary), as in all other auxiliary constructions:

In all of these, action within a future range of time is contemplated. However, in all cases, the sentences are actually voiced in the present tense, since there is no proper future tense in English. It is the implication of futurity that makes these present tense auxiliary constructions amount to a compound future quasi-tense.

Imminence versus non-imminence

The construction am/is/are going to + VERB (and its shortened form am/is/are gonna + VERB) can either imply or fail to imply imminence of the action, and the intended implication must be decided from the context. For example, It's going to rain would be interpreted as implying imminence, whereas I'm going to visit Paris someday would not. Therefore, the forms am/is/are going to + VERB and will + VERB cannot be conceptually distinguished on the basis of degree of imminence.

Relation among tense, aspect, and modality implications of "will" and "going to"

Main article: Tense–aspect–mood

Am/is/are going to + VERB always, and will + VERB usually, imply not just futurity but also aspect (the way an action or state takes place in time) and/or modality (the attitude of the speaker toward the action or state).[3] [4] The precise interpretation must be based on the context. Specifically:

Further aspect/tense constructions implying futurity

Additional auxiliary constructions used to express futurity in combination with the aspects perfect, habitual, and/or continuous are labelled as follows:

Future Continuous: Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Present Participle

Future Perfect: Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Past Participle

Future Perfect Habitual (or Future Perfect Continuous): Auxiliary + Verb Stem + Past Participle + Present Participle

Futurity from a past perspective

The time of perspective of the English future can be shifted from the present to the past by replacing will with its past tense form would, thus effectively creating a "future of the past" construction in which the indicated event or situation occurs after the past time of perspective: In 1982, I knew that I would graduate in 1986.

German

German uses only one auxiliary for the future:

There is no compound infinitive in German so the main verb after werden is a simple infinitive. The infinitive main verb is placed at the end of the sentence or clause, however long it may be.

Dutch

Dutch can express the future in two ways:[5]

Zullen + infinitive is more similar to 'shall' than to 'will'. It is used to:[6]

Gaan + infinitive can be compared with the English "going to" . It is used to:

Icelandic and Old Norse

Icelandic descends from Old Norse and indeed is scarcely changed from it in the written form. Icelandic uses the auxiliaries:

It is believed that in Old Norse munu expressed the pure future, skulu (shall) expressed obligation or determination as it still does, and a third auxiliary, vilja ("will"), expressed will or intent.

A common auxiliary expression of the future, which takes the compound infinitive, is:

(So "Ég ætla að koma"; I will come)

Norwegian

Current standard Norwegian auxiliaries are:

An occasional usage is:

Danish

In Danish the future is usually unmarked, using the present tense form. Sometimes the modals vil ("want") and skal ("must") are used instead to indicate futurity, and sometimes blive "become" can have the meaning "will be". The following distinctions illustrate some of their uses:

Det vil aldrig ske "That will never happen" (a prediction) but Det skal ej ske "That shall not happen" (a promise).

Hvad skal du i aften? "What will you (do) tonight?"; Jeg skal besøge mine forældre i weekenden "I will visit my parents this weekend"; Skal du hjem nu? "Will you go (are you going) home now?".

Han vil hentes "He wants to_be_picked_up"; Han skal hentes "He must be_picked_up". Han vil blive hentet "He will become (be) picked_up (it's already arranged)", but Han skal blive hentet "He will become (be) picked_up (I promise)".

Jeg skal til fødselsdag i morgen "I will (go) to (a) birthday_party tomorrow". Det bliver sjov "That becomes (will be) fun". Vi bliver 15 "We become (will be) 15 (there will be fifteen of us)". Han bliver 40 "He becomes (will be) 40".

Swedish

Swedish[1] skall strongly implies intention, but with an adverb such as nog "probably" it can avoid the implication of intentionality: Det här skall nog gå bra "This here will probably go well". However, the past tense of skall, skulle, can be used without such an adverb to express predictions in the past : Pelle sa, att det skulle bli varmt på eftermiddagen "Pelle said that it would be warm in the afternoon."

Latin and Romance

The future tense forms in Latin varied by conjugation. Here is a sample of the future tense for the first conjugation verb 'amare', 'to love'.

amaboI will (shall) love
amabisyou (singular) will love
amabithe, she, it will love
amabimuswe will (shall) love
amabitisyou (plural) will love
amabuntthey will love

See Latin conjugation for further details. Sound changes in Vulgar Latin made future forms difficult to distinguish from other verb forms (e.g. amabit "he will love" vs. amavit "he loved"), and the Latin simple future forms were gradually replaced by periphrastic structures involving the infinitive and an auxiliary verb, such as debere, venire, velle, and especially habere. All of the modern Romance languages have grammaticalized one of these periphrastic constructions for expressing the future tense; none of them has preserved the original Latin future.

Future tense with habere

While Classical Latin used a set of suffixes to the main verb for the future tense, later Vulgar Latin adopted the use of habere (to have) with the infinitive, as for example:

petant aut petant venire habet[7] ("whether they ask or do not ask, it will come")

From this construction, the major Western Romance languages have simple future tense forms that derive from the infinitive followed by a conjugated form of the verb "to have" (Latin habere). As the auxiliary verb lost its modal force (from a verb expressing obligation, desire, or intention, to a simple marker of tense), it also lost syntactic autonomy (becoming an enclitic) and phonological substance (e.g. Latin 1st sing. habeo > ayyo > Old French ai, Modern French).Thus the sequence of Latin verbs amare habeo ("I have to love") gave rise to French aimerai, Spanish amaré, etc. "I will love".[8] [9]

Phonetic changes also affected the infinitive in the evolution of this form, so that in the modern languages the future stem is not always identical to the infinitive. Consider the following Spanish examples:

See the grammar articles for the individual languages for more details about verb conjugation.

Romanian

Romanian, although a Romance language, patterns like Balkan languages such as Greek and Serbo-Croatian (cf. Balkan sprachbund) in that it uses reflexes of the verb vrea (to want):

Romanian also forms a future tense from the subjunctive, with a preceding particle, o, also derived from vrea:

Portuguese

In Portuguese, the simple future, called "futuro do presente", is quite similar to Spanish. However, in the informal Brazilian Portuguese, the future may also be formed with the auxiliary verb "ir" (to go) in the simple present and with the main verb in the infinitive (vou cantar, vou bater, etc.).

 cantarbaterpartirpôr
eucantareibatereipartireiporei
tucantarásbateráspartirásporás
ele/vocêcantarábaterápartiráporá
nóscantaremosbateremospartiremosporemos
vóscantareisbatereispartireisporeis
eles/vocêscantarãobaterãopartirãoporão

Celtic languages

See main article: Celtic languages.

Scottish Gaelic

In Scottish Gaelic, the future tense is formed in regular verbs by adding aidh or idh to the end of the root form of the verb (idh is used if the final vowel in the root is i).

Inserting cha before the root forms the negative. The initial consonant of the root is lenited where possible, except for d, t or s which in certain cases is not lenited. Chan is substituted if the root begins with a vowel or an f followed by a vowel, which is also lenited.

In the interrogative, an is placed before the root of the verb. If the root begins with b, f, m, or p, am is used instead.

As in English, some forms are irregular - mostly common verbs. For example, the root for the word "to see" is faic, but the positive future tense form "will see" is chì.

The copula is bidh (will be), cha bhi (will not be), am bi (interrogative), and nach bi (negative interrogative).

The linking verb (that will be) is gum bi (positive) or nach bi (negative).

Irish

In Irish, the future tense is formed two ways in regular verbs, depending on verb class. Class I verbs add faidh or fidh to the end of the root form of the verb (fidh is used if the final vowel in the root is e or i).

Class II verbs add óidh or eoidh to the end of the root form of the verb (eoidh is used if the final vowel in the root is e, i, or í).

Both class I and class II verbs have a special form for the 1st person plural:

The negative is formed by adding . The initial consonant of the root is lenited.

In the interrogative, an is placed before the root of the verb, which causes eclipsis.

Of the ten listed irregular verbs in Irish, six show irregular future forms:

One additional irregular verb has an alternate future form:

The future of verb (be) is beidh (1pl. beimid). The copula is ("is") is is (will be), (will not be), an (interrogative), and nach (negative interrogative).

The linking verb (that will be) is go mbí (positive) or nach bí (negative).

Welsh

In Welsh, most verbal functions are expressed using constructions with bod (to be). The future may be expressed in the same way using the future tense of bod.

Fe fydda i yn... (I will...)
Fe fyddi di yn... (thou wilt...)
Fe fydd e yn... (he will...) etc.

(in which "fe" serves as the affirmative marker, the pronoun subject following the verb).

More commonly Welsh uses a construction with "Mynd" (to go)

Futurity can also be expressed by using words that imply future action

Dwi'n mynd yna heddiw: I am going there today.

The simple future, which uses verb suffixes conjugated with the verb, is used to express determination of action or to emphasise confidence in outcome. As in the future of bod, the affirmative marker is fe.

Semitic languages

Hebrew (Biblical)

Biblical Hebrew has an entirely different tense system from those understood in the Indo-European language family. There is no future tense as such. Instead, verbs express completed action or uncompleted action. The future is an uncompleted action, though the expression for, for example, "David will give thanks to God" can also mean "David was giving thanks to God". The interpretation depends on the context.

Modern Hebrew, however, has supplanted the ancient tense system and now contains a future tense.

Arabic

To form future tense in Arabic the prefix (سـَـ) "sa" is added to the present tense verb, or (سوف) "sawfa".[10]

For example consider the sentence:I eat apples > "آكلُ تفاحاً" "Akulu tuffahan"

To express the future we have two ways:I will eat apples > "سـَـآكلُ تفاحاً" "Saakulu tuffahan"or:I will eat apples > "سوف آكلُ تفاحاً" "Sawfa akulu tuffahan"

The first is written as part of the verb, whereas the latter is written as a Clitic to indicate the future but preceding the verb.

In Classical Arabic the latter indicates an individual future action that usually takes place further in the future than the first mentioned form, which is usually used with verbs that relate to other actions, and mostly referring to rather near future actions.However, in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) the distinction is minimal.

Moreover, the indication of the future tense in dialectal Arabic is quite varied from one dialect to the next.Generally speaking, the words meaning "want to" (بدي / أريد أن), "go to" (أروح), "intend to"(ناوي /نويت), and many others are used daily to indicate future actions.[11] Interestingly, in Moroccan Arabic, the word "Ghad" (غاد) is used to indicate future, which literally means "there" (or there is to happen), that is in some way similar to the English formation "there I go.."

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese has no grammatical tense, instead indicating time of action from the context or using adverbs. However, the auxiliary verb Chinese: huì, a modal meaning "can", "know how", can alternatively indicate futurity.[12] For lexical futurity, the word Chinese: yào, which can serve as a verb meaning "to want", can also serve as an adverb meaning "immediately":[13] For example, Chinese: 我要洗澡 wǒ yào xǐzǎo can mean either "I want to bathe" or "I am about to bathe".

Creoles

Creoles are languages with a vocabulary heavily based on a superstrate language but a grammar based on substrate languages and/or universal language tendencies. Some Creoles model a future tense/irrealis mood marker on "go" from the superstrate (analogous to English "am going to").[14] In many creoles the future can be indicated with the progressive aspect, analogous to the English "I'm seeing him tomorrow."[14] In general creoles tend to put less emphasis on marking tense than on marking aspect. When any of tense, aspect, and modality are specified, they are typically indicated with invariant pre-verbal markers in the sequence anterior relative tense (prior to the time focused on), irrealis mode (conditional or future), imperfective aspect.[14]

Jamaican English Creole

The future marker in Jamaican Creole is /de go/[14] or /a go/: /de go hapm/ "is going to happen", /mi a go ɹon/ "I am going to run".

Belizean Creole English

In Belizean Creole, the future tense is indicated by a mandatory invariant pre-verbal particle /(w)a(n)/, /gwein/, or /gouɲ/.

Gullah

In Gullah the future is indicated by the pre-verbal marker gwine: Uh gwine he'p dem "I'm going to help them".

Hawaiian Creole English

In Hawaiian Creole, the pre-verbal future marker is gon:[15] Ai gon bai wan pickup "I'm going to buy one pickup".

Haitian Creole

Haitian Creole, based on a French superstrate, interchangeably uses pral or va (from French 3rd person singular va "goes") pre-verbally to indicate the future:[16] Mwen va fini lit. "I go finish"; Li pral vini jodi a "He will come today".

External links

Notes and References

  1. [Östen Dahl]
  2. Usage notes on "shall" in New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1999 Oxford University Press
  3. Fleischman, Suzanne, The Future in Thought and Language, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982: pp. 18-19, 86-89, and 95-97.
  4. Comrie, Bernard, Tense, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985: pp. 21, 47-48.
  5. Essential Dutch Grammar, http://books.google.be/books?id=GpV6kErbT4IC&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57&dq=future+tense+dutch+grammar&source=bl&ots=spGYnf8P6l&sig=gRiSLsZ5sVm_ypsUQgh68pxrdcg&hl=en&ei=u2jkTe30KsXqOfaq4cIG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CFQQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=future%20tense%20dutch%20grammar&f=false
  6. http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/?n=Verbs.re18
  7. St Augustine of Hippo
  8. http://www.lituanus.org/1969/69_3_02.htm The Importance of Lithuanian for Indo-European Linguistics - Antanas Klimas
  9. Book: Zink, Gaston. Morphologie du français médiéval. PUF. Paris. 1997. 4th edition. 2-13-046470-X.
  10. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=443028 WordReference.com Language Forums
  11. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=346840 WordReference.com Language Forums
  12. Bybee, Joan, Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca, The Evolution of Grammar, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994.
  13. Li, Charles N., and Sandra A. Thomson, Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar, 1989.
  14. Holm, John, An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
  15. Sakoda, Kent, and Siegel, Jeff, Pidgin Grammar, Bess Press, 2003, p. 38.
  16. Turnbull, Wally R., Creole Made Easy, Light Messages, 2000, p. 13.