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  • The Qinghai-Tibet Railyway, the world's highest, starts operating on Saturday. The first train will leave Golmud for Lhasa in the morning.
  • ......The first train leaves Golmud for Lhasa in the morning.

This is supposed to be the first sentence of a special report. Which sentence should I use?

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Both tenses are acceptable but there is a slight change in emphasis and perspective of the event.

To use the Present Simple for a future event means the event is tied to the present (and past). In what way? Well perhaps you have tickets, or it is on a website etc etc. In some way there is a connection and importance to including it in the present.

To use Will emphasizes that action is 'not before' in a way. It isolates it in that future moment. What does that mean!? Let's look at a couple of examples:

I am on holiday next week (so it is a future fixed plan) so let's finish the project this week. (I am interested in the present time).

I will be on holiday next week (so a future 'fact') so don't call me! (I am interested in what happens next week.)

Or another example. The election is next week, what are you planning to do on Election Day? (emphasis is on the present) The election will be next week, I hope it turns out ok! (Emphasis is on the future)

So directly with your answer....hmmm... I believe that you want to emphasize Saturday. You are NOT discussing the crazy preparations happening now! But you are jumping to Saturday. I think in this case WILL is 'possibly' preferable.

It is one of my favourite topics (the meaning of tenses) I highly recommend The English Verb by Michael Lewis and if you want I have some interactive posts on the subject here The Meaning of the Tenses

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Both constructions are perfectly acceptable.

The first, using will leave is typical of an official announcement.

The second, using leaves sounds just a little more immediate and dramatic.

So, while there is very little to distinguish them, for a bland, official statement you might prefer will leave.

if you want to suggest excitement and possibly tension about the imminent departure, you might prefer the second.

  • 1
    Re explicitly future will being "typical of an official announcement", I'm not so sure. According to this Google NGram, the sequence the competition closes is much more common than the competition will close, but my gut feeling is the most likely place you'd find either of those would be in an "official" statement regarding the rules of some competition being run. – FumbleFingers May 7 at 15:44
  • @FumbleFingers I was trying to differentiate between "The train to Brighton on platform 4 will depart at 3.30" vs "Warn the troops; we leave in 30 minutes". – Ronald Sole May 7 at 21:39
  • The distinction passes me by. Aren't both of those examples "official" anyway? Or could we not reasonably say that in the second (military) context, using "present as future" carries stronger allusions to the idea that the troops need to immediately adapt to the new current requirement / condition (that we are about to leave; that troop movement is imminent)? – FumbleFingers May 8 at 13:17

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