1. The Qinghai Tibet Railway, the highest in the world, begins operation on Saturday. 【The first train will leave Golmud, the second largest city of Qinghai Province in Northwest China, for Lhasa, in the Tibet Autonomous Region, in the morning.】
  2. The train leaves Golmud at about 2,800 meters above sea level, winds through the towering Tanggula Mountain Pass at 5, 072 metres, and finally arrives in Lhasa at 3, 650 metres .
  3. A ceremony will be held at the Golmud Railway Station at about 9: 30 am to see off the train, according to sources with the Ministry of Railways. At least 1,000 journalists from home and abroad have come to Qinghai and Tibet to cover the event along the rail line. People can witness the ceremony and the whole day's trip live on television, radio and...

The paragraphs are excerpted from a English translation of a Chinese news report. I understand that the translator uses mostly simple present tense to indicate the railway's opening and the train's timetable was planned and somewhat unlikely to change. What confuses me is the square bracketed sentence in the 1st paragraph shifts to "future tense"(will leave). I think using "will" loses the certainty and the inconsistency in tenses makes readers think that as opposed to the railway's fixed schedule, "the train might not leave Golmud in the morning". Am I right or am I just being picky...

2 Answers 2


Your concern is over switching between will and present simple because as you state:

"I think using "will" loses the certainty."

The Present Simple is used as you correctly state for a fixed plan.

Will is no weaker in this usage. In fact in some regards it is more certain because it is 'untouchable'.

What do I mean by that?

Well will is used for predictions based on fact

The ice will melt very soon here.

and will is used for future facts

I will be 42 on my next birthday.

These events cannot be stopped without a complete change of circumstance. So will can convey more certainty than the present simple.

In fact one use of will is as the modal of certainty/determination.

I don't care what you say, I will do it.

The present simple however does not communicate such inevitability of the future, just the rigidness of the present.

Compare the present focus of

The exam is on Friday, I better study today.

and the future inevitability of

The exam will be on Friday whatever the weather.

For more information on the use of will see my blog post https://www.englishadam.com/learn.php?content=63&src=1

That being said there is little perceived difference and the issue about switching tenses can be a matter of preference, we certainly switch tenses mid-paragraph!

  • I agree with your analysis, but what stuck out like a sore thumb was "The exam is Friday, I better study today". "Had better" is a modal for recommendation, the "had" is part of the phrase, you can't leave it out. The example should be "The exam is Friday, I'd better study today."
    – Karen927
    May 9, 2019 at 23:25
  • @Karen927 "I better" is perfectly acceptable informal English, please see english.stackexchange.com/questions/236948/… May 10, 2019 at 5:49
  • no. I don't care what rules people are trying to make up as they go along. "Had better" is a modal, not "better". Would you advocate for people dropping the "have" helper for present perfect as well?
    – Karen927
    May 13, 2019 at 21:28
  • @Karen927, well you are quite prescriptive about English usage then, which is ironic here because "had better" itself reflects a deviation from a previous standard of English. Please see forum.wordreference.com/threads/origin-of-had-better.2642605 . Interesting stuff, note how "better do" is again cited as 'casual' in usage. May 14, 2019 at 2:57
  • What is "casual" usage? Is that a euphemism for anything goes? If so, would that make "would of" an acceptable form of "would have"?
    – Karen927
    May 14, 2019 at 20:26

They're fine. The modal expression will go and the so-called present goes are usually freely interchangeable for future events, as long as futurity is established in some way.

I can't find any difference in meaning between It leaves in the morning and It will leave in the morning.

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