Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Future Tense

 Lisa Lickel

Third in a series discussing the most common forms of Verb Tense

Past, Present, Future
Some good sites to visit:
Future Tense speaks to some event or action or plan that is yet to take place. Either a plan, a hope, or a dream happens in this moment in time is being considered about the future. It has not happened in the past, and is not underway now in the present. There should not be confusion. Future tense is not an “if I…” wish, which is speculative and subjunctive/hypothetical and not relevant to a particular time frame.

Future verb tense falls into two categories: simple/simple continuous and future/future continuous (continuous or progressive). Both have a Perfect case


SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE often is written something like, “I will…” Other verbs and modifiers are as I wrote above, “I plan to…” or as simply as, “Let me/us…”
We are going to
I want to
I could

NOTE: Many of these will often toe the line of speculative tense, in that it refers to something that I want to/would do, but can/could not because of improbability/impossibility. That case is NOT future tense.

However, future tense can meld in some cases with present and past tense, and may look something like the following. The future tense words are in blue bold.

“Okay, guys, here’s the plan.” Detective Reynolds looked each of his three team members in the eye, gauging and assessing their potential reactions. “Tommy, you’ll take point. Gina, you have your assignment. We’re counting on you to find the control room.”
Tommy and Gina exchanged a tense nod.
“You can count on me, boss. I got this one,” Tommy said.
Gina pulled on her gloves and flexed her fingers. “I memorized the layout of the building.”

SIMPLE FUTURE PERFECT TENSE refers to an action or an event that will be complete in the future and uses “have/had.”

I looked at the candy in my hand, melting into my fingerprints. I will have finished the whole box of chocolates when I swallowed this caramel-filled dainty.

means that the future action is not finished. It also uses “had” and “had been”; ”will have been,” and so forth. It is unfortunate that this case is generally considered weak and passive because it involves verbs of motion that show change, also referred to as “dynamic,” and very often end in “ing.”

Reynolds followed Tommy and Gina, pleased with HIS dedicated and dependable cohorts for their assignment to eradicate the Inglorious Kings gang, that had been ongoing for eighteen months.

Using this construct is not wrong, but authors must be careful to use it correctly and in appropriate situations. Those who critique and edit the English language should also consider the unique contextual situation when jumping on the “avoid passive and weak” usage (and I freely admit to being one of them).

In certain genres in fiction that use situational planning to move the story forward, often crime and procedurals, and chick lit or similar categories with a great deal of introspection, and non-fiction self-help, future tense is essential to the story. Don’t be afraid to use it. After all, Dorothy would never have reached the opportunity to click her heels three times, or Frodo the means to destroy the One Ring if there was no determination to move into the future.
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  1. Verb tenses always confuse writers, I think. Particularly the future. When novels are written in past tense, showing what's future in "story time" can be confusing. Thanks for this series.

  2. I always try to stress that tense is a literary friend.