Form of the 'going to'-future


The going to-future is formed with am/is/are going to + the base form of the verb.

I am >You are >
He is >
She is >
It is > going to arrive tomorrow.
We are >
You are >
They are >

Uses of the 'going to'-future


1. The 'going to'-future for prediction

The going to-future is often used, like will, to predict the future. It is common in speech, especially when we are referring to the immediate future. The speaker sees signs of something that is about to happen:

  • Oh, look! It's going to rain! Look out! She's going to faint!

This use of going to includes the present, whereas It will rain is purely about the future. Alternatively, the speaker may have prior knowledge of something which will happen in the near future:

  • They're going to be married soon. (Her brother told me.)

A future time reference may be added with such predictions:

  • It's going to rain tonight. They're going to be married next May.

We usually prefer will to the going to-future in formal writing and when there is a need for constant reference to the future as in, for example, weather forecasts.


2. The 'going to'-future for intentions, plans, etc.

When there is any suggestion of intentions and plans, we tend to use the going to-future rather than will in informal style:

  • I'm going to practise the piano for two hours this evening. (i.e. That's my intention: what I have planned/arranged to do.)

However, we generally prefer will to going to when we decide to do something at the moment of speaking:

  • We're really lost. I'll stop and ask someone the way.

Intention can be emphasized with adverbs like now and just which are generally associated with present time:

  • I'm now going to show you how to make spaghetti sauce.

  • I'm just going to change. I'll be back in five minutes.

The use of 'be going to' to refer to the remote future is less common and generally requires a time reference:

  • She says she's going to be a jockey when she grows up.

If we want to be precise about intentions and plans, we use verbs like intend to, plan to, propose to, rather than going to:

  • They're going to build a new motorway to the west. (vague)

  • They propose to build a new motorway to the west. (more precise)


3. The 'going to'-future in place of the Present Progressive

The going to-future may be used where we would equally expect to have the Present Progressive with a future reference:

  • I'm having dinner with Janet tomorrow evening.

  • I'm going to have dinner with Janet tomorrow evening.

However, we cannot use the Present Progressive to make predictions, so it would not be possible in a sentence like this:

  • It's going to snow tonight.


Though 'be going to' can combine with go and come, the Present Progressive is preferred with these verbs for reasons of style. We tend to avoid going next to go or come (e.g. going to go/going to come):

  • I'm going/coming home early this evening.


4. The 'going to'-future after 'if'

We do not normally use will after if to make predictions, but we can use 'be going to' to express an intention:

  • If you're going to join us, we'll wait for you.

'Be going to' can often be used in the main clause as well:

  • If you invite Jack, there's going to be trouble.