Forming the Future Tenses of English Verbs for Theses and Dissertations

Forming the Future Tenses of English Verbs for Theses and Dissertations
Many thesis and dissertation candidates, especially those whose native language is not English, find the conjugation of English verbs somewhat tricky. For this reason, I have written a few posts on conjugating the tenses of English verbs for postgraduate students, with this article tackling the future forms. Please note that in the examples of correct usage I provide below, the verb forms I am discussing appear in uppercase letters for clarity, not because such capitals should be used in scholarly prose.

The future simple is formed by using the auxiliary verb ‘will’ followed by the main verb, as in ‘He WILL READ my book,’ ‘You WILL WORK at the library’ and ‘They WILL CONDUCT advanced research.’ For a negative construction, ‘not’ should be inserted between the auxiliary and the main verb, as in ‘We WILL not READ that book’ or ‘I WILL not CONDUCT advanced research.’ A question is formed when the positions of the subject and the auxiliary verb are exchanged: ‘WILL you WORK at the library?’ and ‘WILL he READ my book too?’ The future simple describes action that will occur in the future and can also be used for prediction, as in ‘It WILL RAIN tonight.’ The verb ‘to think’ is often used along with the simple future, so ‘I think it WILL RAIN tonight’ is an alternative form of expression.
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The future continuous or future progressive tense is constructed by using the auxiliary verbs ‘will’ and ‘be’ followed by the present participle of the main verb. ‘He WILL BE READING my book tomorrow,’ ‘You WILL BE ATTENDING the conference next week’ and ‘They WILL BE SLEEPING by then’ are good examples. The word ‘not’ is inserted between ‘will’ and ‘be’ to form a negative statement, whereas the subject changes places with the word ‘will’ when a question is intended. ‘We WILL not BE ATTENDING the conference’ demonstrates the first, and ‘WILL she BE VISITING the library?’ shows the second. The future continuous is used to describe something that will be happening at a given moment or point in the future – a moment at which the action will have started but not finished – and even when the time is not specifically mentioned, the reader generally understands what time is intended.

The future perfect is formed with the auxiliary verbs ‘will’ and ‘have’ along with the past participle of the main verb. ‘He WILL HAVE READ my book by then,’ ‘You WILL HAVE VISITED the library before lunch’ and ‘They WILL HAVE FINISHED their paper first’ are sound examples. For a negative construction, the word ‘not’ should be inserted between ‘will’ and ‘have,’ as it is in ‘We WILL not HAVE DRIVEN to the library before noon.’ A question is formed by exchanging the positions of the subject and the auxiliary verb ‘will’: ‘WILL she HAVE FINISHED her thesis before the deadline?’ The future perfect reports action in the future that occurs before another action in the future; it is therefore ‘perfect’ in that it expresses the past from the perspective of the future.

The future perfect continuous, also referred to as the future perfect progressive, is constructed by using no less than three auxiliary verbs – ‘will,’ ‘have’ and ‘be’ – followed by the present participle of the main verb. Examples include ‘He WILL HAVE BEEN READING the book for days by then,’ ‘You WILL HAVE BEEN FLYING all night to arrive on time’ and ‘We WILL HAVE BEEN SITTING for hours when we arrive.’ A negative sentence includes the word ‘not’ between ‘will’ and ‘have,’ as in ‘They WILL not HAVE BEEN READING for days,’ and a question switches the positions of the subject and the auxiliary verb ‘will,’ as is the case in ‘WILL she HAVE BEEN FLYING all night?’ The future perfect continuous is similar to the future perfect, but the actions it describes tend to be longer or extended up to a specific point or moment in the future, with the action beginning in the past, present or future, but always ceasing in the future.

As a final note, do be aware that the auxiliary verb ‘shall’ is sometimes used instead of ‘will’ in these future constructions, especially with ‘I’ or ‘we’ as the subject. ‘I SHALL READ that book,’ ‘We SHALL BE VISITING the library tomorrow,’ ‘I SHALL HAVE FINISHED the book by tonight’ and ‘We SHALL HAVE BEEN SITTING for hours when we arrive’ are therefore acceptable alternative constructions.

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