2 Mistakes English Learners always make with ‘will’

One of the main mistakes English learners make with will is that they use it too often.  To find out more about how future tenses work, check out my diagram! Here are 2 main mistakes learners make with will and why you should avoid them!

Mistake #1. Using will to talk about your future plans

It is true that we use will for most things when we are talking about the future:

1. Promises / offers

2. Predictions

4. Spontaneous decisions about the future

The main thing which we DO NOT use will for is to talk about our plans. The problem with using will to talk about your plans is that it makes all of your plans sound like they are spontaneous.

For example, if you say something like ‘This weekend I will meet my friend’, it sounds like you have just decided only RIGHT NOW that you will meet your friend.  If you have planned this in advance, the correct form should be:

(I will explain the differences between these two later in the post)

You will always be understood if you use will to talk about your future plans, but when you are talking about important life plans this can sound like you are spontaneously planning your life in the middle of the conversation! Take a sentence like this:

‘I will go to university and I will study economics’

This sounds like you have just spontaneously decided to start a career as a student right now! This sentence should be: ‘I am going to university and I am going to study economics’.

Another example: ‘I will go to live in Australia’ sounds like you have spontaneously decided to leave the country and start a new life in Australia! This sentence should be: ‘I am going to live in Australia’.

So what should we use to talk about our future plans?

We use going to for intentions, things that you have a plan to do but it isn’t yet fixed, you are not sure on the exact time or date for the plan, it is just something you want to do:

‘I am going to visit my parents sometime this afternoon’

‘I’m going to speak to my boss when he arrives’

We use present continuous for more fixed plans, when you, for example have more of a fixed time and place:

‘I am meeting my friend at 2 o clock this afternoon’

‘The meeting is taking place in the conference room’

The difference between these two is very small and not always important, sometimes it is not clear how fixed your plans are, but this is a general guide.

For more detailed information about future tenses see my future tenses guide.

When many non-native speakers think about the future they think only of will, and you will almost always be understood when you use it in the wrong place, but my tip would be that it is very possible that you are using will too much to talk about the future.

Mistake #2: Forgetting to use will to say that you will spontaneously do something

Imagine you are about to start a meeting, but there are not enough chairs for everyone in the meeting room.  You decide to get some more, and you want to tell everyone this.  What do you say?

Many learners of English would say ‘I get some more chairs’.  But this is actually wrong in English.

When we tell somebody that we are going to do something spontaneous, we always use will to tell them, even if you will do it RIGHT NOW. So this sentence should be ‘I will get some more chairs’.  

This is used in all occasions when you tell someone that you are immediately going to do something, here are some more examples:

You offer to get someone some water RIGHT NOW: ‘I will get you a glass of water’ NOT ‘I get you a glass of water’.

You want to show your friend your new car RIGHT NOW:  ‘Follow me I will show you my new car!’ NOT ‘Follow me I show you my new car’

You want to collect your things before you leave the office: ‘I take my things before we leave the office’ NOT ‘I will take my things before we leave the office’

It is often difficult to remember to use will in this situation, especially as it is spontaneous.  If you forget to  use will here you will always be understood, but you won’t sound like a native speaker, and it’s nice to get it right!

If you would like to have any any further examples of this in context, feel free to visit my website or comment below! Check out more business English grammar right here!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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