What is the difference between “will” and “going to”? Or the difference between “going to” and present continuous? I’ve drawn a picture that I think shows these differences clearly – click on and save the picture to see it in a larger size.
So, what does this picture tell us?
- “will” is used to talk about future events that we haven’t planned yet. We haven’t planned them because this is the first time we’ve been told about them, or the first time we’ve thought about them. Two examples:
- “I’ll help you with those books” – I’ve seen someone having trouble so I’ve offered to help
- “I’ll come with you” – I’ve just been told a friend is going on holiday and I’ve decided I want to come.
Of course, we could use “might” or “may” if we’re less sure about the decision.
2. “going to” is used when a plan has been made, but the future event is still quite far away in time (see example) – so we usually make the time very clear (“I’m going to see Harry Potter at the cinema next Saturday”) – this means I’ve already bought a ticket, so I made the plan some time before I said this.
3. Present Continuous is used when the event is planned and is really soon. We often use this to talk about events that are happening on the same day. Remember, we must specify time, because if we don’t then the listener will understand that we are talking about something happening now! Example:
- “I’m seeing Harry Potter later” – I know that this is soon, and therefore unlikely to change
- “I’m seeing Harry Potter” – This is happening now, so you’re talking to me while the film is on
4. We also use Present Simple to talk about future events. In this case they are happening very soon, they are extremely unlikely to change, and they are usually actions / events that we can not control. For this reason, we often talk about schedules (transport, for example) because they are on a timetable and being controlled by other people. Example:
- “The train leaves from Platform 6 at 7:30pm” – this train will leave with or without me!
So, you can see that as you read down the page on my picture, you become more sure about the event as it gets closer to happening (have a look at the arrow).
OK, now lets look at how we can make a similar picture for making predictions
Again, there is an arrow showing that as the event gets closer, you become more sure of your prediction. So, “going to” is a prediction we make when the event is almost happening, or is almost 100% certain. Example:
- “Manchester City are going to win” – I say this after 45 minutes of the match, when Manchester City are already winning!
- “Manchester City will definitely win” – I say this before the match, so it’s a prediction made with less evidence.
Notice that we can’t use present continuous / present simple to make predictions!
I hope this helps you! As always, email / comment with any questions!