The future in French can be expressed in three different ways – le futur proche (aller + infinitive form of the verb), le futur simple or even at times with le présent.
The choice depends mostly on whether you are talking about a planned event which will definitely take place; or whether you are thinking about something that could eventually take place one day; or if your speaking about actions that will take place in the very near future. A French person will instinctively use the appropriate one without thinking. The distinction between le futur and le futur proche is not always clear – there are many situations where you can use either one. Therefore, we will try to give you some clear pointers on which one to choose and why.
Take a few minutes to read and understand the definition and how to use each one.
1) Le futur proche
Most of you have probably use this tense as it is quite straight forward and easy to use with the verb aller. We have a tendency to use this tense more frequently when speaking than the futur simple. Usually, we use it to indicate an event or actions which are planned and are most likely going to happen. When one starts learning French, it is best to first learn the futur proche tense since the verb aller is usually one of the first verbs we learn to conjugate. It is translated as “going to” and mirrors very closely how it is used in English. This is how it works:
Subject + the present tense of aller + infinitive of a verb
Je vais manger une soupe à midi. = I’m going to eat a soup for lunch.
Tu vas manger… Il/Elle va manger… Nous allons manger… Vous allez manger… Ils/Elles vont manger… = You’re going to eat… He/She is going to eat… We’re going to eat… You’re going to eat… They’re going to eat…
Again, the French have a tendency to use this tense to indicate something they have planned and will most likely happen. It can be a short or long term planned event.
Nous allons déménager en France l’année prochaine. = We’re going to move to France next year.
Je vais partir du travail avant 19h. = I’m going to leave work before 7pm.
2) Le futur simple
This tense is widely used and the conjugation is very close to the “conditionnel tense”. It is a bit more difficult to pronounce but, inevitably, it is important to learn it if you wish to progress or become fluent. It is the equivalent of “will” in English. The conjugation is not so difficult; it involves adding an ending to the future stem (most of the time, that stem will simply be the infinitive of the verb).
Manger (to eat) = Je manger+ai, tu manger+as, il manger+a, nous manger+ons, vous manger+ez, ils manger+ont… = I will eat, you will eat, etc…
Note that the endings are quite similar to the present conjugation of the verb avoir.
Of course, some irregular verbs, such as être, avoir, faire and aller have an irregular future stem. You will have to learn them by heart:
Être = je serai, tu seras, il/elle sera, nous serons, vous serez, ils/elles seront.
Avoir = j’aurai, tu auras, il/elle aura, nous aurons, vous aurez, ils/elles auront.
Aller = j’irai, tu iras, il/elle ira, nous irons, vous irez, ils/elles iront.
Faire = je ferai, tu feras, il/elle fera, nous ferons, vous ferez, il/elles feront.
The futur simple is used to project an event in the future, we use it also to indicate a forecast or to talk about a personal objective that we dream about achieving.
Un jour, j’irai vivre en France. = one day, I will live in France
La semaine prochaine, j’irai à la gym. = Next week, I will go to the gym. (Even though it is next week, we don’t exactly know when… If we did know, then the futur proche would be most likely used in this instance…)
Demain, il fera beau. = Tomorrow will be a nice day.
Le futur simple is also used in the conditional si clauses (“if” clauses), i.e. if something is true, then something will take place because of it. The French will not use the futur proche option in this type of construction.
Si j’ai le temps, je viendrai te voir. = If I have time, I will come to see you.
Je finirai ma peinture aujourd’hui, si je peux. = I will finish my painting today, if I can.
You automatically need to use the futur simple when you are using quand (when), dès que (as soon as), aussitôt que (as soon as); une fois que (once that), après que (after that). Whereas in English, the present tense is used.
Quand tu finiras tes devoirs, tu pourras regarder la télé. = When you finish your homework, you will be able to watch TV.
Dès que tu commenceras ton nouveau travail, je resterai à la maison 2 jours par semaine. = Once you start your new job, I will stay at home 2 days per week.
3) Le présent
(for expressing a future action)
Have you ever queued at the train station to buy some tickets and when you arrived at the window, the clerk put up a sign stating Je reviens dans quelques minutes (I’ll be back in a few minutes)? This is a typical way to communicate an action that will take place in the upcoming minutes or hours… Instead of using “I will…” or “I’m going to…”, you may just simply use the present tense of the verb. We especially express ourselves this way with verbs of movements: aller (to go), revenir (to come back), partir (to leave), rentrer (to return home), sortir (to go out), etc.. It adds more energy to the sentence, lightens up the speech and gives confidence that the action will indeed really take place.
Je suis prête dans quelques minutes ! = I’ll be ready in a few minutes!
J’arrive demain ! = I’m coming tomorrow
Je rentre ce soir. = I’ll come back home tonight.
Je pars dans 2 heures. = I’m leaving in 2 hours.
Je t’appelle demain matin. = I’ll call you tomorrow morning.
Nous déménageons le mois prochain. = We’ll be moving next month.