Could you explain this kind of future, please?

Clare wants to be a doctor when she is older

Why isn't there are any use of will or going to?

  • 5
    It is not about the future, just a current desire. Tomorrow she might want to be something else.
    – user3169
    Jun 19, 2016 at 18:58
  • Because English has no future tense, it has to rely on other ways to talk about the future. In your example, the temporal adjunct "when she is older" clearly indicates that we are talking about some possible event in the future.
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2016 at 19:05
  • 2
    @BillJ English has no future tense, are you high?
    – Cardinal
    Jun 19, 2016 at 19:26
  • @Cardinal What?
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2016 at 19:29
  • 1
    @Cardinal. English has no future tense because our verbs have no future tense inflections. Here's a link to University College London's grammar website that may help you: link
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2016 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


Since you are from Peru, I expect you are wondering why the sentence is not constructed the way it is in Spanish.

Clare quiere ser una doctora cuando sea grande.

which in English we say as...

Clare wants to be a doctor when she is older.

The verb in the first clause indicates a desire at the present moment, and is the same as in Spanish.

However, English does not have a subjunctive to use with time words.

...cuando sea grande

In clauses with time words (when, until, after) we usually use the present tense to talk about the future.


We will talk about it when I come home.

Don't do anything until we talk.

You can make a decision after we discuss it.

It follows the same pattern as if and unless clauses when talking about the future.

I will take care of it if you agree.

I won't buy it unless you like it.

Will is not usually used with time words or if.

"Going to" is usually used to express intention, or a prediction.

This weekend I'm going to the beach.

It looks like it is going to rain.

We could also say...

Clare is going to be a Doctor when she is older.

...to indicate her intention. Or we could also say...

Clare would like to be a Doctor when she is older.

...to indicate her current desire for the future, but the clauses with time words stay the same as the above examples.

  • 1
    I have edited this answer to include a more detailed explanation of why I answered it the way I did the first time round for the benefit of non-Spanish speakers. I used to get this question all the time when I taught EFL to native Spanish speakers, and as the OP accepted the answer, I am pretty sure it was the intent of his original question. Jun 20, 2016 at 19:28
  • Thanks @gandalf for make your response even more detailed. It was very useful. Jun 20, 2016 at 20:45

I believe it was answered in the comments but I'll give you a clearer example here.

Clare wants to be a doctor when she is older.

This is asserting Clare's current desire.

Clare will want to be a doctor when she is older.

This is asserting that in the future Clare will have this desire.

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