There are three ways of expressing the future in Spanish:
- We can use the combination ir + a + infinitive
Mañana voy a ver el partido de fútbol. Tomorrow, I am going to watch the soccer game.
- We can express the future with the present tense
Mañana tengo examen de matemáticas. Tomorrow I have a math exam.
- Or we can use the simple future
La comida llegará sobre las 8. The food will arrive at 8.
In this post, we will review these forms of the future and when to use each. Continue reading to learn more!
‘Ir’ + ‘a’ + infinitive
To express plans and intentions of some certaintyWe use ir + a + the infinitive to talk about our plans, intentions, or objectives of some certainty, or in order to ask others about their plans, intentions, or decisions:
¿Vas a comer conmigo?
Are you going to eat with me?
El fin de semana que viene voy a ir a Barcelona.
Next weekend I am going to go to Barcelona.
Usually, when we use this combination, we are certain or sure about the information we are presenting. This also works if we are certain something is not going to happen:
No vamos a ir al concierto esta noche.
We are not going to go to the concert tonight.
To express evident future factsWe also use this combination when we want to present a future fact that is likely evident. For example, if you see a lot of people arriving at a party, you could say:
Va a ser una fiesta muy grande.
It’s going to be a large party. (it is evident)
To express a logical resultAnother use for this combination is to express a logical result of the present. For example, imagine you are at the beach sunbathing and your friend doesn’t put sunscreen on, you can say:
Te vas a quemar.
You are going to get a sunburn. (it is logical)
The present tense
Sometimes, we use the present tense in Spanish. Yes, you read that correctly! Dust off your crystal ball, because in Spanish we can use the present tense to convey the future! Its use is similar to ir + a + infinitive, but also:
To confirm the near futureWe use the present simple to refer to actions in the future we are sure about, that is, we use the present tense to confirm the near future. These sentences always go with an expression of time (page 1) in order to indicate its future value: esta noche (tonight), mañana (tomorrow), etc. Take a look at the following examples. In each of them, we are presenting information that will happen in the near future that we are sure about:
Mi hermana llega esta noche.
My sister will arrive tonight.
El miércoles que viene tengo un examen.
I have an exam next Wednesday.
¿A qué hora comemos mañana?
What time are we eating tomorrow?
Notice that in English, we can use the future “will,” the present simple, or the present progressive to talk about the near future. However, in Spanish, we use the simple present.
Expressions in the present that denote the future
There are a couple of expressions with the verb estar used in the present tense that can denote that you’re about to do something in the near future:
→ Estar a punto de + infinitive
To be about to / To be on the verge of
Estoy a punto de salir de casa.
I’m about to leave the house.
→ Estar por + infinitive
To be about to
Estoy por ir a su casa y preguntarle.
I’m about to go to his house and ask him.
Although similar and often interchangeable, there is sometimes a subtle difference in meaning. Estar a punto de describes what you’re going to do next, whereas estar por can express the feeling of wanting to do something, even if you may not actually do it.
Check out this list of other expressions that are typically used with the present tense (page 2) to denote the future.
Finally, we use the simple future tense when we want to make predictions about the future or when we want to make assumptions about the present. To see how to form the simple future, take a look at the tables we created with regular and irregular verbs. And keep reading to see the various ways it can be used.
To make predictions about the future
We use the simple future tense to make a prediction about the future. Usually, when we talk about the near future, we use this tense when we are less sure about the information we are conveying. Take a look at the following examples, comparing the simple future with the ir + a + infinitive construction we saw above.
SIMPLE FUTURE IR + A + Infinitive
El avión llegará a las 5. vs. El avión va a llegar a las 5.
The plane will arrive at 5.
Al final, se cancelará el viaje. vs. Al final, se va a cancelar el viaje.
In the end the trip will be canceled.
The main difference between these pairs of sentences is the certainty the speaker has about the information. In the first sentence on the left, it is probable that the plane will arrive at five, while in the sentence on the right, it is certain. In the second example on the left, you are making a prediction about the trip, while in the one on the right, you are certain the trip will be canceled.
We can also use the simple future to make assumptions about the present, when we are talking about something we are not totally sure about.
Remember that in general, if we want to present information that is obvious, then we use the present tense; the simple future is used for probable or likely situations:
Simple future → It is probable:
El paquete llegará a las 3.
The package will arrive at 3.
Present tense → It is certain:
El paquete llega a las 3.
The package arrives at 3.
We’ve discussed three ways of expressing the future in Spanish: the combination ir + a + infinitive, the present tense, and the simple future.
- We use the combination ir + a + infinitive when we talk about decisions or plans, or when we are talking about logical or evident results.
- We use the present tense in order to present information in the near future we know is true.
- Finally, the simple future is used when we want to make predictions about the future.
Before you leave, we created some activities so you can practice the different ways of expressing the future in Spanish. A key is included so you can check your work. Happy learning!
An infinitive is a verb in its basic form, for example to run, to eat, to be. In Spanish, infinitives have one of three endings: –ar, –er, –ir (cantar, comer, vivir).