1) I'll see you tomorrow; 2) I'm going to see you tomorrow; 3) I'm seeing you tomorrow; 4) I'll be seeing you tomorrow
The first example:
'I'll see you tomorrow.' - This is 'will' + the infinitive. We use this form when we speak at the same time that we make a decision about the future plan. For example:
'When can you give me an answer?'
'Well, I'll see you tomorrow. Is that okay?'
Now, the second example:
'I'm going to see you tomorrow' - This is 'to be going to' + the infinitive. We use this form when we have made the decision and plan before we speak. We are telling someone what we have already decided or agreed to do.
Look at these two examples to compare the first two forms:
1. 'They say the weather will be nice tomorrow'
'Really? Oh well, in that case, I think I'll go to the beach'
2. 'They say the weather will be nice tomorrow'
'I know - I checked the news yesterday. I'm going to go to the beach. Would you like to come?'
So, you can see the difference between these two forms. In the first one, the decision is made at the time of speaking. In the second one, the decision was made earlier; the plan has been made.
Now, the third form:
'I'm seeing you tomorrow' - This is the present continuous with a future meaning. We use it to talk about definite plans and arrangements. Things have been decided already, and arrangements have been made. As you can see, this is very similar in use to 'to be going to'.
Importantly, we generally use the present continuous when we are thinking about a particular time in the future. And it is commonly used to talk about social plans and meetings. On a Friday at work, the most common question is probably:
'What are you doing this weekend?'
Finally, the last form:
"I'll be seeing you tomorrow." - This is 'will' + the continuous infinitive. We use this form when we want to bring some of the meaning of the continuous form to our description of future events.
The continuous form emphasises that an activity is happening at a certain time, and this activity lasts for a limited period of time. This meaning is now combined with one meaning of 'will' - namely that 'will' can describe future facts or predictions.
So, if you want to describe a future event and you want to emphasis the activity that will take place over time of this event, you say:
'At this time tomorrow, I'll be swimming in the sea. No more work for me - I'm on holiday!'
I hope this helps you understand these four forms a little better. Remember that 'to be going to' and the present continuous both suggest that plans have been made already. 'Will' is used for spontaneous decisions and 'will be doing' emphasises the action at a particular time in the future.
Anyway, time to finish. I'm meeting my boss in an hour and I haven't read the report yet!
Gareth Rees has been an English language teacher and teacher trainer for over 10 years. He is currently a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and his first course book for English Language learners is due to be published in the near future.
Planned future actions
Are there any differences in the use of present progressive, future progressive and be going to for planned future actions? Can you give me more examples of when we should use future progressive?
be going to: I'm going to visit my cousins in Leeds over the coming weekend.
future progressive: I'll be visiting my cousins in Leeds over the coming weekend.
present progressive: I'm visiting my cousins in Leeds over this coming weekend.
We can use all three of these forms to talk about planned future actions, Timur, and there is not a great deal of difference between them.
I'm visiting my cousins in Leeds over this coming weekend.
The present progressive is most used for arrangements in the near future, usually when time and place have already been decided:
What are you doing after the lesson?
I'm meeting Ronnie for a coffee.
Where are you meeting him?.
I'm meeting him under the clock at Victoria Station.
What are you doing tonight?
I'm staying in. I've got loads of emails to reply to.
I'll be visiting my cousins in Leeds over this coming weekend.
The future progressive is also used to refer to planned future events. We often use it to make polite enquiries about people's plans:
Will you be staying in tonight?
No I won't. I'm going out. I have to see Brian to plan the trip to Greece.
Will you be staying in Bristol for very long?
No, just for a few days. Then we're moving on to Cardiff.
We can also use the future progressive for making predictions about what will happen over a period of time in the future:
This time next year I shall be working for Gabriel in Brazil.
While you're revising for your exams, I shall be relaxing on a beach but I will be thinking of you!
Note that while we can use future progressive and be going to future for making predictions, we cannot use the present progressive in this way:
Look at those dark clouds. It will be raining here very soon
Look at those dark clouds. It's going to rain here before long.
(BUT NOT: Look at those dark clouds. It's raining here before long.)
I'm going to visit my cousins in Leeds over this coming weekend.
If we put it this way, we are focusing our attention on intentions rather than on previous arrangements. Thus, be going to is used to talk about both predictions and intentions:
They're going to get married some time next year. ~ When? ~ They're planning to get married in the summer, I think, but there's no date yet.
Have you noticed that Irene seems to be putting on weight? Haven't you heard? She's going to have a baby.
They're going to win this match. They're three - nil up and there's only ten minutes left to play.
I'm to visit my cousins in Leeds over this coming weekend.
Note that we use the be to future to refer to arrangements that have been made on our behalf, often of an official nature:
The Prince is to visit three inner-city schools and to open the new wing of the hospital before he takes his Easter holiday.
Sven-Goran Eriksson is to manage the England team until 2008. He signed a new contract yesterday.