Skip to main content

You say that you would use 'is going to' because there are dark clouds. But how to do you view the prospect of rain? Maybe you care if it rains because it directly affects you in some way, such as prevents you from going out. What if you don't care?

To understand the difference between the Present Continuous and Future tense, and why we choose one or the other, it is important to understand that 'future' means two things in the English language:
1. time as measured by the clock
2. events that are of immediate relevance and importance to the speaker right NOW; and what he perceives, views, 'feels' as remote from his current reality, a 'psychological' future.
Let me explain that by using two sentences as examples:
“One day, billions of years from now, the sun will burn out, collapse and explode.”
That's time by the clock.
compare
Mother: John, I need you to take out the garbage.
John: I'm/ I am on the phone. I'll/ I will do it as soon as I'm finished.
Here, by the clock, the 'future' act of taking out the garbage may be just minutes away, but he speaks about it in the Future Tense...because all that is of immediate importance and relevance to him is his telephone conversation, and the garbage is viewed as outside his immediate psychological world, as 'remote'.

Another example:
"The cast and director arrive later this morning, so straight after this meeting, I want you to ensure their rooms are ready. The film crew will arrive over the next few days, and I'll brief you on that tomorrow when I have more information."
The arrival of the film crew is seen as 'outside', remote from today, right NOW, the current briefing. The speaker will get round to briefing them on the arrival of the film crew when that becomes of more immediate importance.

I hope you're starting to realise that it takes more than "evidence" to determine the choice of tense. Smile

"Hmm, there are some dark clouds about. Just our luck! It's going to rain tonight while we're at the open-air concert."

Here, going to the concert tonight is part of my emotional/psychological world, and whether it rains or not has particular relevance to me.

"Hmm, there are some dark clouds about. It will rain tonight and that open-air rock concert will be a wash-out, you mark my words."

Here, while I know about the planned concert, I am not going, and it is not relevant to me. I therefore speak of it more 'remotely', using the Future Tense.

So, yes, 'going to' is used if something is planned, whether in 5 minutes time, or a year's time:
"Guess what - I'm going to Hawaii next year. I've got a tax refund coming next November, and I'm going to pay for the trip with that."

Even though it may be nearly a year away, it is now part of the person's emotional world, and he speaks of it using the 'going to' form.

compare:
Doctor (to his receptionist): I've double booked this afternoon. I'm going to see Mrs. Smith, so can you ring Mrs. Jones and tell her I'll see her during my morning surgery."
Note that he is planning to see Mrs. Jones, but his orientation is today, and she is not part of the doctor's immediate reality. He uses the more 'remote' form 'will' when referring to her.
Last edited by bazza
Hi Garurumon, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

I understand your confusion about whether to use 'will' or 'be going to' in that sentence.

First I'd like to ask you where you came across that sentence. The reason for that is that it is a run-on sentence, so there already is something wrong with it -- before we ever get to the question of whether 'will' is correct or not.

Although there are plenty of 'rules' about when to use 'will' and when to use 'be going to', the truth is that sometimes there isn't much difference between the two, and sometimes it simply depends on the way the speaker views things.

Here are a few general guidelines about when to use 'will':

1. when making a simple prediction about the future
2. when making a promise
3. when indicating willingness to do something
4. when making a spontaneous decision to do something

And here are a few general guidelines about when to use the 'be going to' future:

a. when talking about intentions
b. when talking about the unavoidable/imminent future (in which case you often have solid evidence now that something will happen)
c. when talking about activities you have already decided to do

Please note that I call these 'general guidelines' and NOT 'rules'.

Having said all that, let's return to your original question.

quote:
There are some dark clouds now, it will rain tonight.

Why is "will" used here? I'd use "be going to" because there is evidence that it will rain.

In this sentence, either the 'will' future or the 'be going to' future can be justified according to the guidelines I gave above. In this case, it depends a bit on the speaker's point of view and/or past experience.

Will:
Perhaps the speaker knows that it often (but not always) rains later when clouds such as these are in the sky. In this case, we might say that the speaker is making a simple prediction. The speaker is making an educated guess about what will probably happen.

Be going to:
Perhaps the speaker's experience is that every single time dark clouds such as these appear it rains later. In this case, the speaker perceives rain basically as being unavoidable, and feels there is currently clear evidence that rain is imminent.

I hope this helps.

If you want me to provide some example sentences for each of the guidelines above, I'll be happy to do that too.
Last edited by Amy, Co-Moderator
Hi Garurumon,

I'll give you a few examples for each general guideline:

quote:
1. when making a simple prediction about the future
2. when making a promise
3. when indicating willingness to do something
4. when making a spontaneous decision to do something

1. I'll probably take a week's vacation sometime next month, but I'm not really sure yet. The speaker thinks a vacation next month is likely, but there are currently no plans, and there might also be something that ends up delaying a vacation until later.)

2. Darling, I will always love, honor and cherish you. (The speaker is promising.)

3. Speaker A: Which you you would be willing to help me on this project?
Speaker B: I can help. I'll do the revisions you mentioned.
(Speaker B is showing willingness to help.)

4. Context: A customer is on the phone with a customer service representative.

Customer service representative: I'll send out a replacement part to you today.
The representative has made a spontaneous decision to do something. There was no previous plan to send a replacement part. In this particular case, the use of 'will' can also be viewed as a promise.)

quote:
a. when talking about intentions
b. when talking about the unavoidable/imminent future (in which case you often have solid evidence now that something will happen)
c. when talking about activities you have already decided to do


a. I'm going to take a week's vacation in December and go to Hawaii, but I'm not sure where I'll be staying yet. (This is similar to #1 above, but in this case the speaker is more sure about taking the vacation. It is the speaker's intention to go to Hawaii in December. The speaker may or may not have already made some of the arrangements.)

b. Context: The speaker sees a plane flying vertically towards the ground. When the plane is about 200 feet away from the ground, the speaker might say this:
- That plane is going to crash! (The speakers thinks a crash is unavoidable/imminent. The use of 'will' would definitely be wrong here.)

c. Context: The speaker noticed earlier in the day that they were out of milk and were close to running out of a few other things. The speaker made a decision earlier to do some shopping later in the day.

- I'm going to go shopping now.


Hope that helps.
Hi Amy,
I can't figure out the difference in meaning between these two sentences because I feel they both express the same idea: uncertainty. So, could you please explain their difference?

1. "I'll probably take a week's vacation sometime next month, but I'm not really sure yet."

2. "I am going to take a week's vacation sometime next month, but I'm not really sure yet."

Thanks.
Sorry, Kuen, I neglected to add that with the 'be going to' future, I would not expect the final clause to be added to that sentence. That seems far too uncertain. But it would be possible to say this, for example:

"I am going to take a week's vacation sometime next month, but I'm not sure about the exact dates yet."

In this case, the speaker would be intending to take a week off next month, but might not yet be sure which week. Possibly two different weeks are currently being considered, but the final decision about which of those two hasn't been made yet.

Add Reply

×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×