Forms of future substitutes


I am > to see Mr Jones tomorrow.
You are >
He is > due to leave at 7.30.
She is > about to get a big surprise.
We are > on the point of leaving.
You are > - leaving immediately.
They - > - leave at 7 tomorrow.

Uses of future substitutes


1. The use of 'am/is/are to'

'Be to' is used to refer to the future when the actions are subject to human control. Thus statements such as I'm going to faint or It's going to rain cannot be expressed with 'be to', which has restricted uses: e.g.

Formal arrangements/public duties:

  • OPEC representatives are to meet in Geneva next Tuesday. Compare: OPEC REPRESENTATIVES TO MEET IN GENEVA

Formal appointments/instructions:

  • active: You're to deliver these flowers before 10.

  • passive: Three tablets to be taken twice a day.

Prohibitions/public notices:

  • You're not to tell him anything about our plans. (= you mustn't)


2. The use of 'be about to', 'be on the point of'

These constructions are used to refer to the immediate future:

  • Look! The race is about to start.

'On the point of' conveys even greater immediacy:

  • Look! They're on the point of starting!

The use of just with 'about to' and 'be on the point of' increases the sense of immediacy, as it does with the Present Progressive:

  • They're just starting!

3. The use of 'be due to'

This is often used in connection with timetables and itineraries:

  • The BA 561 is due to arrive from Athens at 13.15.

  • The BA 561 is not due till 13.15.