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Michael Swan says, after 'hope', a native speaker often prefers to use a present tense with a future meaning, however, I've come across sentences written by native speakers in which they had preferred a future tense after 'hope'.

As a native English speaker which one do you prefer:

"I hope 2021 is better."

Or

"I hope 2021 will be better."

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Both are possible, and there is very little difference in meaning.

"Will be better" is more explicitly about the future. It has the common notion in future tenses of uncertainty. Nobody is certain about anything in the future. Perhaps it suggests that the future is not set yet, perhaps by wishing for it to be better we can make it change...

On the other hand using "is" suggests you think the future of 2021 is already fixed, and it is already good or bad, we just wait and see...

I hope Santa will bring me a toy train. I hope the gift under the tree is a new jumper.

The difference is at most a subtle nuance. In most cases, the tense would be chosen to fit with context rather than to give a subtle shade of meaning. It probably doesn't matter much which one you choose.

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