Incorrectly Using The Simple Present Tense To Talk About The Future

Talking about the Future in English

Let’s talk about your future. What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What can you do to help our company be more profitable?

Does it feel like a job interview? Sorry about that. We aren’t here to talk about your future, we’re actually here to talk about how you talk about your future (and the future in general).

Lots of Germans think, “Oh, I can just use the simple present tense to talk about the future whenever I want. It works in German without any problems, so why not?” Again, sorry, but you can’t. But what can you use? There are three options: the present continuous tense,  “be + going to”, and the simple future).

Let’s take a look at an example:

“Morgen fahre ich mit Auto nach Hamburg” wouldn’t be translated as “Tomorrow I drive to Hamburg” but rather “Tomorrow I’m driving to Hamburg” or “Tomorrow I’m going to drive to Hamburg” or “Tomorrow I will drive to Hamburg.”

And just a note, you can only use the present continuous (I’m driving to Hamburg) if it is clear to the reader or listener that the event will take place in the future (for example, you include when it will happen, or you’ve been talking about the event and the listener knows it’s in the future, or you are with the person and they can see what you are doing or not doing).

Here are some more examples of what to say and what not to say:

Don’t say “Next year I go to university“. Instead, say “Next year I am going to university.”

Don’t say “He meets his friends at the bar tomorrow evening.” Instead, say “He is going to meet his friends at the bar tomorrow evening“.

Don’t say “I am tired tomorrow“. Instead, say “I will be tired tomorrow.”