Learn Grammar: Will and Going to

The grammar focus for Episode Six Blue is Will and Going to.

Both will and be going to are used for making predictions and used with high frequency. The distinction between them is subtle, and often both forms can be used quite naturally with little or no apparent difference in meaning.

We therefore take the views that 1) there is little point labouring over the distinction, but also 2) that both forms are indispensable due to their high frequency (although note that be going to is mainly restricted to conversation and more informal written genres such as email).

Both will and going to are used to talk about the future. Look at the construction of using ‘will’ and ‘going to’ in the following examples:

WILL:

Subject + will + verb             e.g.  EJ will help Jimmy.

Subject + won’t + verb        e.g.  Jimmy won’t believe Daniel / Jimmy will not believe Daniel.

Will + subject + verb?           e.g. Will Jimmy find Jenny?

GOING TO:

Subject + be + going to + verb                   e.g. I am going to watch Fortune.

Subject + be + not + going to + verb       e.g. Daniel is not going to see EJ.

Be + subject + going to + verb                   e.g. Are you going to have lunch?

Will is a general way of talking about the future, while be going to has a more specific and restricted use. However, it is important to note that, in practice, in many situations both forms are acceptable, and with little apparent difference in meaning.

Several general rules can be applied when deciding on whether to use ‘will’ or ‘going to’:

  1. Use ‘going to’ for a decision or intention made prior to speaking or writing about it – e.g. We are going to the movies tonight.
  2. Use ‘going to’ when talking about a future action with clear evidence – e.g. Look at those black clouds. It is going to rain soon.
  3. Use ‘will’ when there is no evidence to support a prediction but is based on a feeling – e.g. He will have a stomachache if he eats that whole cake.

You can learn more about the future forms of ‘will’ and ‘going to’ by watching the following grammar lesson video on our Chasing Time English TV YouTube channel: