Would you please tell me which tenses are suitable here?

... the sun (KEEP) burning forever?

Sometime in the next twenty-five years, a spaceship with a human crew (LAND) on Mars.

My grammar book gives only two options: "to be going to + verb" and "will + verb". But I wonder the reason why I should avoid using the "continuous present" tense.

  • Just curious to know if you will present those sentences in continuous tense in your mother tongue? – Man_From_India Mar 25 '14 at 8:33
  • As far as I know, you use Present Continuous, in order to assert or empphasis about the fact that that event is placing sooner than BE GONG TO or WILL +VERB. So, what is wrong with me? – nima Mar 25 '14 at 10:47
  • But you are talking about future... – Man_From_India Mar 25 '14 at 10:49
  • I'm guessing here. I think the OP might want to ask which one is correct (or both are possible), "will" vs. "is going to"? -- "Will the sun keep burning forever?" vs. "Is the sun going to keep burning forever?" -- "Sometime in the next twenty-five years, a spaceship with a human crew will land on Mars." vs "Sometime in the next twenty-five years, a spaceship with a human crew is going to on Mars." – Damkerng T. Mar 26 '14 at 0:28

In terms of future events, the present continuous indicates an event that will happen in the near future, so

"A spaceship with a human crew is landing on Mars tomorrow"

works, but

"Sometime in the next twenty-five years, a spaceship is landing on Mars"

is just too far removed from the present.

Remember that the PrC connects to the present - if you say they are landing tomorrow, we can imagine that right now, in the present, they are making the preparations towards performing and completing that near-future action (note: "they are landing tomorrow" does not in itself mean "they are preparing now" - the present state is simply implied).

When you say "In the next 25 years" (and especially with the vague "sometime"), the point of completion is entirely in the future - so far in the future, that it is difficult to imagine the connection to the present at all.

Of course, PrC can be used for a longer action in the present that will have consequences in the future. In this case, you would say

"They are preparing to send a spaceship to Mars",

even though the actual sending might be 25 years in the future.

As for "the sun is burning forever", "forever" includes the present of course, but it also points way, way into the future - and of course indicates that the action will never be completed. "I am studying nursing" works because completion will occur in the near future, and there will be an effect of the present action in the near future.

You can say "The sun is burning today", but of course the burning of the sun now does not indicate its state of burning in the distant future (grammatically speaking).

EDIT: As Nico points out, if you want to use "keep", this will not work with PrC: one would not formally say "The sun is keeping shining".

  • I think the first sentence is meant to be a question using the verb "keep". It's not possible to use the present continuous in that sentence: <strike>"Is the sun keeping burning forever?"</strike> – Nico Mar 25 '14 at 23:01
  • Thanks. I wasn't sure if OP wanted to keep "keep" or was just asking about "will keep" vs Prc. Since you bring it up I'll add something to the answer. – nxx Mar 25 '14 at 23:31

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