So, you’re in a conversation in Spanish, and your conversation partner asks:
- Oye, ¿qué vas a hacer mañana? (So, what are you doing tomorrow?)
And you want to reply that you’re going to have lunch with a friend, so you start… But you’ve forgotten how to form the future tense in Spanish! The horror! Do you need the future simple or how do you say “I’m going to have lunch with a friend”? Panic!
Uff! I bet esa situación te sonó familiar (this situation sounded familiar to you)! Luckily, this won’t happen to you anymore because today I, Mariana, head of grammar at Spring Spanish, will show you how you can always use the future tense correctly while speaking Spanish in conversations without having to think about conjugation tables!
The Informal Future
This is how you could reply to the question ¿Qué vas a hacer mañana? (What are you doing tomorrow?)
- Mañana voy a comer con mi amiga Carolina. (Tomorrow I’m going to have lunch with my friend Carolina.)
In this case, you are using the equivalent of “I’m going to”, which is called informal future, and in Spanish, it works by combining the verb ir (to go), plus the preposition a (to), plus an unconjugated verb…
I know that quizás suena complicado (this may sound complicated), but if you just learn the chunk “voy a” by heart, you’re already using the future tense, but you’re not even thinking about the rules que acabo de mencionar (I just mentioned)!
These are other examples you may start using right away:
- Mañana voy a hacer ejercicio. (I’m going to work out tomorrow.)
- La próxima semana voy a ir al cine. (I’m going to the movie theater next week.)
- Cuando se acabe la pandemia, voy a viajar. (When the pandemic is over, I’m going to travel.)
See? Easy, right? This is the easiest way to speak about the future in Spanish.
Here are some more examples:
¿Ah, sí? ¿A dónde van a ir a comer?
(Oh, really? Where will you guys go for lunch?)
Todavía no sabemos, pero después vamos a ir al cine.
(We don’t know yet, but we’re going to the movies afterwards.)
¡Qué bien! ¿Qué película van a ver?
(Nice! What movie are you guys going to watch?)
No sé. Carolina va a decidir cuál.
(I don’t know. Carolina is going to decide which.)
As you may have noticed, this conversation has loads of chunks! If you want a deck of flashcards with these chunks to memorize them easily, so they roll off the tongue in conversations, sign up to the Spring Spanish Inner Circle.
The Simple Future
So, the “voy a” future is your “easy way out” to speak about the future in Spanish, but we also have a real future tense, of course: el futuro simple (the simple future).
El futuro simple en español (The Spanish simple future) is used to talk about something that will or should happen. More specifically, these are the uses of el futuro simple (the simple future):
- To make predictions about the future
- To express solemn commands (like the Ten Commandments; so, serious and old-fashioned commands)
- To talk about guesses, possibilities, or probabilities
Regarding conjugation, fortunately, all verbs in Spanish (so, regardless of whether they end it -AR, -ER or -IR) have la misma terminación (the same ending) in the simple future. Let's go over some examples.
Predictions about the future
Oye, pero ¿no les da miedo salir ahorita en plena pandemia?
(Hey, but aren’t you guys afraid of going out right now, amid the pandemic?)
Pues saldremos con todas las precauciones.
(Well, we’re going out “with all precautions” / following all precautions.)
Bueno, me imagino que el centro comercial estará tranquilo mañana.
(Well, I presume the mall will be calm tomorrow.)
Sí, yo también creo eso. Además, supongo que no tardaremos mucho.
(Yes, I think so too. Plus, I guess we will not take that long.)
Did you notice any patterns? Here’s how we form the futuro simple:
- If you’re talking about yourself, you add an -é (with an accent mark), as in saldré (I will go out).
- If you are addressing someone using the informal you (tú), you add -ás (with an accent mark), as in saldrás (you will go out.)
- If you are talking about he or she, you only add an -á (with an accent mark), as in estará or saldrá.
- If you are speaking in the first-person plural (nosotras or nosotros), the ending is -remos, as in nadaremos (we will swim).
- If you are talking about plural you (ustedes) or they (ellas / ellos), the ending will always be -án (with an accent mark), as in saldrán (you guys / they will go out).
Again, it’s easier to just learn them by heart as chunks in context… Like in the sentence from the conversation saldremos con todas las precauciones.
Saldremos con todas las precauciones is a sentence that became very popular during 2020! It’s made out of two chunks: saldremos con (we will go out with) and todas las precauciones (all the precautions).
As you can tell, a word-for-word translation is a bit awkward (nonsensical, even). So, it’s better to learn these chunks by heart.
If you say saldremos con, you’re talking about nosotras or nosotros (we), but you could combine the chunk todas las precauciones (all the precautions) with other chunks to talk about different people. For example:
- Saldré con todas las precauciones. (I will go out following all precautions.)
- ¿Saldrás con todas las precauciones? (Will you go out following all precautions?) —Are you sure?
- Ella es muy cuidadosa; saldrá con todas las precauciones. (She’s very cautious; she will go out following all precautions.)
- Ellos juran que saldrán con todas las precauciones. (They swear they’re going out following all precautions.) —Yes, this one is sarcastic… you know, for the so-called “covidiots”.
Since Catholicism plays a huge role in Mexico, I actually had to learn the Ten Commandments by heart when I was a child.
- No robarás. (You shall not steal.)
- Honrarás a tu padre y a tu madre. (Honor your father and your mother.)
Since these are solemn or serious/old-fashioned commands, they make use of el futuro simple (the simple future). Now, you will hardly hear native speakers using the future in solemn commands.
Guesses, possibilities, or probabilities
You need el futuro simple to talk about things that may be or are probably true.
¿Supiste que José se casó la semana pasada?
(Did you hear that José got married last week?)
¿En serio? ¿Con su novia de siempre?
(Really? With his life-time girlfriend?)
¡No, con una chica que conoció hace tres meses!
(No, with a girl he met three months ago!)
¡¿Qué?! Eso está rarísimo. ¿Estará embarazada?
(What?! That’s so strange. Maybe she’s pregnant?)
Sí, a lo mejor.
A lo mejor is another example of a chunk you should learn by heart! The literal translation would be something like “to the better”, but an actual equivalent is “maybe” or “probably”.
You may use this chunk when you are not sure about something, but you think the odds are very high. Remember, chunks will always be the same and native speakers use them constantly. So, learn this one by heart, as a whole, and you will sound like a true native speaker when talking about guesses, probabilities, or possibilities.
Quiz & Practice
So, what do you think? Are you ready to test your knowledge of el futuro simple? Try filling in the blanks to do so!
- Mañana ___________ con mi amiga Carolina. (Tomorrow I’m going to have lunch with my friend Carolina.)
- ¿A dónde _________ a comer? (Where will you guys go for lunch?)
- Supongo que ___________ mucho. (I guess we will not take that long.)
- ¿Qué película _________? (What movie are you guys going to watch?)
- Carolina __________ cuál. (Carolina is going to decide which.)
- _________ todas las precauciones. (We go out following all precautions.)
- Ellos juran que ________ todas las precauciones. (They swear they’re going out following all precautions.)
- ¿_____________? (Maybe she’s pregnant?)
- Me imagino que el centro comercial ________ mañana. (I presume the mall will be calm tomorrow.)
- ______________. (You shall not steal.)
Do you see yourself speaking effortlessly about the future in Spanish now? I bet you do! Next up: speak about the past in Spanish!