The Future Continuous Tense

The future continuous expresses an action that will be in progress at a given point in the future.

The future continuous has two possible forms. There is no difference in the meaning of these forms.
  • Will be + present participle
  • Be going to be + present participle
A present participle is a verb in the –ing form.

How is the future continuous used?
The future continuous is used with a reference to a particular time in the future (such as tomorrow, at midnight, this time next week, next month, a year from now, in 2030…). The time reference could be stated by the speaker (the person who is using the future continuous) or by another speaker. The time reference is underlined in the following examples:
  • Please don’t call after 10:00pm. I will be sleeping.
  • This time tomorrow I’ll be sitting on the beach in Florida!
  • I’m going to be studying for the next few hours. Could you keep the noise down?
  • I’m going to be arriving late, so please don’t wait for me.
  • Person A: Do you want to meet for lunch tomorrow?
    • Person B: I would like to, but I will be working all day.
  • Person A: Do you think people will be living on Mars 100 years from now?
    • Person B: No, but I think more people will be going to space for tourism.
  • Person A: Are you available for a conference call at 2:00?
    • Person B: No, I’m going to be giving a presentation at that time.
What is the difference between the simple future and the future continuous?
The simple future has two forms:
  • Will + base form
  • Be going to + base form
Here are some basic examples:
  • I will call you later.
  • She is going to study geography.
The simple future refers to an action that will occur or start at a particular point in the future.
  • We’re going to study at 3:00. (We will start studying at that time.)
  • I will call you tomorrow.
On the other hand, the future continuous refers to an action that will already be in progress at a point in the future.
  • I will be studying at 3:00.
    • In this sentence, we don’t know when the person will start studying. It may be any time before 3:00. We can also understand that the person will continue to study after 3:00.
  • Person A: Are you available for a conference call at 2:00?
  • Person B: No, I’m going to be giving a presentation at that time.
    • In this conversation, we don’t know if Person B is going to start the presentation at 2:00. She might start the presentation at 1:30. We only know that the presentation will be in progress at 2:00. It will probably continue after that time as well.
The future continuous should not be used for actions that happen suddenly, because those actions are not continuous. Instead, use the simple future:
  • You’ll get hit by the ball if you stand there!
  • NOT: You will be getting hit by the ball…
In some cases, the simple future and the future continuous can be used interchangeably. A time reference like “all day” shows that the action will be continuous, so the continuous tense is optional:
  • We’re going to be working on our project all day.
  • We’re going to work on our project all day.
Another factor to keep in mind is not all verbs can be continuous. Verbs that indicate a state rather than an action are not used in continuous tenses. These verbs can be organized into several categories of stative verbs:
  • Mental states – think, understand, believe, doubt, know, prefer, remember, want
  • Emotional states – like, love, hate
  • Senses – see, hear, smell, taste, feel, seem, sound
  • Possession – have, own, possess
  • Communication – agree, disagree, mean, promise
  • Other states – be, need, owe, cost, depend, matter
In these cases, use the simple future instead:
  • This vacation is going to cost a lot of money.
  • NOT: This vacation is going to be costing a lot of money.