According to Cambridge's Advanced Grammar in Use, (Unit 11D) only will is correct in the following sentences, but not going to,

If you look carefully, you'll (not are going to) find writing scratched on the glass.

If you move to your left, you'll (not are going to) be able to see the church.

because in a situation like the above, you are describing a future event that follows another.

I would argue that in almost all conditional situations a future event may follow another, and therefore it is not a reason to distinguish will and going to.

So my question is: Can going to be used here or not?

  • You are right. I will reword my question.
    – tiaotiao
    May 25, 2019 at 4:31
  • 1
    People use are going to in this context all the time. It sounds very slightly strange to me personally, but not at all unusual. Given that it is used so often, I think it's impossible to make the claim that it's wrong. Language and grammar is fluid and necessarily changes over time and use. It may have been something that wasn't done in the past, but it's certainly done now. This seems more a prescriptive statement than anything of practical value. For all intents and purposes, I don't think this can be called wrong. May 25, 2019 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


I have now read the passage in question which says:

We can use will or going to with little difference in meaning in the main clause of an if-sentence when we say that something (often something negative) is conditional on something else - it will happen if something else happens first


However, we use will (or another auxiliary), not going to, when we describe a future event that follows another. Often 'if' has a meaning similar to 'when' in this kind of sentence.

I think that it may be that the use of "will" rather than "going to" in such a case results in better writing, but that construction is in my view used too frequently to call this a rule. Such a declaration, with no particular reason given, feels very prescriptive to me. So I have to disagree with this source about this "rule".


I think the textbook is correct in that native English speakers are more likely to use will than going to in these sentences, but I think the reason they give is wrong.

Both of these sentences are essentially advice. We generally use will if we are using an if sentence to give somebody advice. (I don't know if this is a special case of a more general grammatical rule or not.)

If you stop smoking, you will live longer.

But we are perfectly willing to use are going to when "one future event may follow another".

If they close the airport, they are going to have to find places for all the passengers to stay.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .