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Understanding and Using Modal Verbs (#27), by Dennis Oliver

 

Modal Verbs #27:
Individual Modal Verbs

 

The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners
of English. This happens for many reasons, including both
grammar and meaning.

In this Hint, we'll look at differences between the use of will
and be going to when talking or writing about future events.


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Expressing Plans for the Future

 

One use for the modal auxiliary will (and also for be going to)
is in showing someone's predictions about the future--things
that someone speaks or writes about before they actually happen.

Another use for will (but not be going to) is in showing
willingness or volition--being agreeable to the idea of doing
something. When
will is used in this way, it can refer to either
present or future time.

When someone speaks or writes about an event in the future,
maybe that event was planned in the past and maybe it wasn't.
If the event was planned in the past,
be going to, but not will,
is used. If the event was not planned in the past, either
will or
be going to may be used.


Examples:

A:

B:

 

Do you want to go for a cup of coffee?

No, thanks. I'm really tired and I'm going to
go to bed in just a few minutes.

(B has already made plans to go to bed soon, so she/he
uses
be going to, not will.)

_____________________________________

A:

B:

 

Are you looking forward to your vacation?

Yes, very much. I'm going to visit some
friends in San Francisco.

(B has already made plans to visit friends in San Francisco,
so she/he uses
be going to, not will.)

_____________________________________


A:

B:

 

What are you going to do in San Francisco?

My friends and I haven't made any special plans,
but I'm sure that we
'll have a good time.

(Because A assumes that B and her/his friends have made plans
about what to do, A uses
be going to in the question. Because
no plans have been made, B uses
will in the answer--though
be going to is also possible.)


________________________________________________


A:   Will you be back home in time to go to
Susie's party?
B:   I'm afraid not. Her party's on the 15th,
and I
'm not going to leave San Francisco
until the 16th.

(Because A isn't sure when B plans to return, she/he uses
will in the question--though be going to is also possible.
Because B has already made plans to return on the 16th,
B uses
be going to in the answer.)


________________________________________________


Remember:

When no plans for the future have been made in the past,
either
be going to or will may be used--because the future
event will be a
prediction. When plans for the future have
been made, only
be going to may be used.


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Next: more on modal verbs

 

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