I would like to know the difference between "be going to," the present continuous, and the present simple. We use one of them when we talk about future, but I can't differentiate them. For example:

The holidays start next week.

Why can't we use:

  • The holidays are going to start next week.
  • The holidays are starting next week.
  • The holidays will start next week.
  • 3
    Don't feel bad if you can't differ them. I can't, either. They all mean the same thing. :^) (Although the "are going to start" version is my least favorite; it sounds too wordy. But it would be fine for conversation. One could even say: "The holidays will be starting next week," or even, "The holidays are going to be starting next week.") Whichever version you use, I'm looking forward to next week!
    – J.R.
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:41
  • Yeah,me too )Thank you :))So I don't have to differ,they are all the same,It's good !!
    – Reamiel
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:52
  • you can use them in speaking. However, if you're looking for a general rule here's some guidelines: use be going to, will, and present continuous for your personal definite plans in future. You can use them for predictions, too based on the signs you percieve as in it's going to rain after you see the clouds in the sky. Use present simple to talk about time tables and events on calender.
    – Yuri
    Jan 12, 2017 at 0:33
  • @Mari-Lou A what I posted doesn't really address the OP's concern. She/He's probably aware of the general places that we use these forms; He's looking for a reason beyond accepted grammatical structures and not something like use present simple when the statements are based on present facts, and when these facts are something fixed like a time-table, schedule, calendar. However, if you think otherwise, you feel free and post a community answer.
    – Yuri
    Jan 12, 2017 at 18:48
  • 1
    That'd be silly. English has a tense system, as I pointed out in my previous comment. But in your example will is a modal auxiliary, and expressing modality is its primary use. The modal auxiliary will is neither sufficient nor necessary to express future time. In other words, you can express future time without it, and you can use will without expressing future time. If we can't get this straight, we can't possibly answer the question . . .
    – user230
    Jan 16, 2017 at 7:53

2 Answers 2


Using the present tense for future events indicates certainty, consistency, and familiarity. In other words, use this to talk about events which will happen, which happen on a regular basis (or are predictable in some way), and about which you have some personal knowledge.

The holidays start next week.

I know this happens every year, last year I saw it happen in the same way, and I am sure it will happen the same way this year.

The train leaves in five minutes

I know the train leaves at a specific time, I know that trains usually leave on time, and I have seen the schedule to confirm when the train will leave.

The gala event starts tomorrow

I have personal knowledge that it is scheduled for tomorrow, I know that events like this usually start on schedule, and I feel comfortable asserting that it will definitely happen.

If any of these three does not exist, there is uncertainty, and the future tense will be more appropriate.

We get paid on Friday

I know this happens with some consistency and regularity, as I've already received at least one paycheck on Friday.

We will get paid on Friday

Oops, now there is some doubt. I hope this will happen, but I'm not sure it'll happen.

Here's another example: given no other context, consider these two sentences:

He will make the winning shot of the game in twenty seconds.

He makes the winning shot of the game in twenty seconds.

The first indicates a future condition, but the context is unclear. Do I really know this will happen? Probably not. More likely I'm expressing an opinion, or a personal hope.

But the second sentence, that expresses an odd certainty. The context is either that we are watching a recording of the game which I have seen before, or that I'm psychic, and I've already seen this happen with my mental powers.

  • 1
    @Clare I would suggest you re-read my answer since you seem to have misunderstood the basic premise. It's not a question of what actually will or won't happen, but only my own personal level of certainty.
    – Andrew
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:27
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    @Clare A negation without logic or counter-example is not an argument. It's just contradiction.
    – Andrew
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:36
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    @Andrew No, it isn't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:29
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    Using will to speak of the future does add uncertainty. It's a modal auxiliary after all, and it expresses epistemic modality which is absent from the corresponding clause without modal marking. That's the primary use of English will; the futurive interpretation is secondary.
    – user230
    Jan 15, 2017 at 22:59
  • 2
    +1 for that brilliant "winning shot" example! It illustrates only one of many possible factors affecting tense choices, but imho it's a very precise distinction which would be implicitly, subconsciously recognised by virtually every native speaker. My guess is that not 1 in 100 people could meaningfully explain a difference between He will arrive in ten minutes and He arrives in ten minutes. But in yours, if asked to say which version was "real-time" reporting, and which was said after the "winning shot", they'd all make the same choice (without necessarily knowing why). Jan 21, 2017 at 14:12

When we are sure about the event/things in the future, the present tense is okay.

The holidays start next week - it's fixed that the holidays are coming next week. It's similar to the Valentine's Day is on February 14 and not will be on*.

Some more examples -

The train leaves in 5 minutes - the train is scheduled to depart at that time.
The gala event starts tomorrow - it's fixed that it'll begin tomorrow.

  • Isn't it correct to say "The train will leave in 5 minutes"? why?
    – Reamiel
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:15
  • 1
    @Reamiel. That's correct for the train and may be even for the gala event as they are still likely to get postpone/delayed. Since you asked about the holidays, for example Christmastide that has fixed dates/days, it preferably takes the present tense.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:24
  • Thank you @Maulik .What about "I'm meeting Susan this evening " Can I say "I meet Susan this evening " Because our meeting is arranged ,fixed to be this evening .
    – Reamiel
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:31
  • 3
    You can say "I meet Susan this evening," but the tone is different. It sounds more formal, almost foreboding. If Susan is a good friend of mine, I'm more likely to say, "I'm meeting Susan this evening," or "I'll be meeting Susan this evening." But if Susan is a coworker I don't get along with very well, or an ex-wife, or a competitor in some bitter rivalry, I might go with the more icy, "I meet Susan this evening." But it's verb-dependent, too. Say I'm in a band; the drummer asks, "Are we open on the 16th?" I can answer: "No – we play at the nightclub that evening." Nothing icy about that.
    – J.R.
    Jan 2, 2014 at 11:58
  • 2
    @J.R. You can also say, "Susan and I meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays." without sounding formal or foreboding.
    – godel9
    Jan 2, 2014 at 14:57

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