Expressing a Future Action: When To Use “Will” And “Going To”

Hi everyone! Today we’ll learn about a common and confusing concept involving expressing a future action. This is about when to use WILL and GOING TO.

Both of them refer to future actions. Although in some cases they can be interchangeable, because there are multiple ways of expressing the same thing in English. However, knowing which one you think is best really just depends on what you’re trying to say.

Like I said before, you can use both WILL and GOING TO in the same sentence with no change in the meaning, but you really have to ask yourself what it is you’re really trying to say. So, you have to pay attention to the different types of situations so you can understand which of these two choices will be the best option when expressing a future action.

When to use “WILL”

  • Will can be used in expressing rapid decisions, or a future action that you have decided on at the moment of speaking. 

Examples: 

“I’m thirsty! I think I will buy a drink.” 

“This is so expensive! But I will be able to afford this someday.” 

“Okay, I’ll go to your party!” 

Remember also that the condensed form of I will is I’ll and will not is won’t. These are very much commonly used in conversational English. 

  • Will can also be used when you are making an offer. For example: 

“I will help with you your luggage, they look heavy!” 

“You can’t go there alone, I’ll go with you.” 

I’ll get the mop for you.” 

  • It’s also used for making promises. 

“I will keep your secret.” 

“I won’t let you down!” 

I’ll be there, I promise!” 

  • And for making threats, which are very similar to promises but can be connoted negatively. 

I’ll break your nose if you hurt her.”

“If you don’t pull yourself together, I’ll never let you see me again.”

“I won’t pay for damages if you drive recklessly.” 

Use Will for a Far Further Future Action 

One important detail about “WILL” is that it is most often used to discuss things or situations that may take a long time to happen. Here are some examples of situations when he expression “WILL” is used: 

  • Dreams

“Someday I will learn another language.”

  • Promises

“I promise I’ll call you tonight!”

  • To express actions that are far into the future

“I will get married someday.”

  • Requests

“Will you buy a hamburger for me? Thank you!”

  • To discuss a fact

“I’ll graduate from college next year”

  • After making a decision

“Yes! I will marry you!”

  • Help/Volunteer

“I’ll volunteer at this event tonight!”

When to use “GOING TO” 

  • One huge difference in using GOING TO versus WILL, is that you use GOING TO when the action was already decided on even before speaking of it. 

Examples: 

“I’m going to take some time off work this year.” 

“They are going to adopt a child.” 

“He’s going to quit his job and become an artist.” 

  • Going to can also be used for a future action when there are signs or evidence that it is likely going to happen. 

“They’ve been together forever. He’s going to propose soon.” 

“This team is playing so bad today. They’re going to lose!” 

“I shouldn’t have eaten that much! I’m gonna throw up!” 

The condensed form of going to is gonna. And it’s worth practicing this in your conversations to sound more natural. Stick with “going to” in more formal communication, though. 

 

Use for a Future Action That Will Happen Soon

One important detail about “GOING TO” is that it is most often used to discuss things or situations that might happen soon. The expression “GOING TO” is used in the following situations:

  • Definite plans

“I am going to help you with your English!”

  • Immediate actions

“She’s gonna eat lunch with my friend tomorrow.” 

  • Actions that will happen soon

“He’s going to be a doctor next year!” 

  • Anticipation

“Are you going to download our free Ebook?”

  • Predicting a future action

“The weather is going to be very cold today.” 

 

Summary of our Future Action expressions

When you are plans are definite, use GOING TO. When you dream of doing something, use WILL.

When you’re talking about actions that are far into the future (months or maybe years from now), use WILL. When you’re talking about actions that you will do soon (tomorrow or next week), use GOING TO.

When you want to ask/request for something, use WILL). When you’re expecting/anticipating something to happen, use GOING TO.

Finally, when you promise something, use ‘WILL!’

Don’t forget how to use these two expressions correctly to articulate a future action. If you will constantly make an effort in learning and using proper English, you are going to be a great English speaker in no time! 

Now, let’s keep learning. I recommend you learn next about the difference between “would,” “would have” and “would have had.”

Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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