Future: BE going to


In English, there are many ways to talk about the future, so I’ll split it up into various articles.

You never really know what the future holds, so there are different ways to talk about plans, timetables, predictions and so on. Consider:

  • We’re going to travel to York in February. → a plan/intention.
  • I’m meeting Katie for lunch tomorrow. → a date, or “future arrangement”.
  • If you study and behave, you will pass. → a prediction.
  • The plane leaves in two hours’ time. → a timetable.

  Sometimes, different ways of seeing the future overlap: are you talking about a plan, or a future arrangement? The good news is that very often there’s more than one ‘correct’ option. The bad news is, it can be confusing.

The Future with BE going to

  The future with BE going to, or “going-to future” is probably the first future form you learnt. The picture shows how to make it.

  There is a very informal short form of the going-to future, using the word “gonna”. It’s OK if you say it in an informal context, but please don’t use it when you’re writing. It’s becoming more “normal” in America, but it’s still too informal in Britain and many other places.


The going-to future sometimes overlaps with the future with WILL (Future: WILL).

We mainly use it for:

  • Plans and Intentions:
    • We’re going to visit York in February. → a previously made decision
    • What are you going to do at Christmas? → intentions
  • Intuitions, or “Immediate Predictions”
    • Oh no! It’s going to rain!
    • Mary is nine months pregnant. The baby’s going to come really soon.
    • Watch your step, or you’re going to fall.

The difference between an “Intuition” and a “Prediction” is the following:

  • With an Intuition, you “see” what’s going to happen -you see it, you know it.
  • With a Prediction,  you have to think a bit to figure out what will happen.

Yes, they are similar 😉.


In the going-to future, the verb is made up of the Auxiliary BE and the combination of going to + Infinitive.

The picture gives an overview.

How to Make Sentences in the Future with BE going to

Remember the basic sentence structure in English:

Affirmative: Subject + Verb + Rest.

Negation: Subject + Auxiliary + not + “Infinitive” + Rest.


  1. Non-Subject: (WH) + Auxiliary + Subject + “Infinitive” + Rest?
  2. Subject: WH + Verb + Rest?

This gives us:

Affirmative: Subject + [BE] [going to + Infinitive] + Rest.

Negation: Subject + [BE] + not + [going to + Infinitive] + Rest.


  1. Non-Subject: (WH) + [BE] + Subject + [going to + Infinitive] + Rest?
  2. Subject: WH + [BE] [going to + Infinitive] + Rest?

WILL versus BE going to

 Sometimes, both forms can be used. But usually you should use either one or the other. The table shows when to use which.

BE going to in the Past

It sounds strange, but you can use this future form to talk about the past.

Have you ever wanted to do something, but then you didn’t?

Well, that’s where you need was/were + going to:

  • I was going to write, but then I forgot.
  • We were going to travel on Friday, but the weather was too bad.
  • I wasn’t going to do it, but in the end I accepted the task.

Futures” at http://joscha.x10host.com  

BE going to at Agendaweb.org

WILL or BE going to at Agendaweb.org

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