Ready to be transported back to the future tense? If you’ve studied Spanish before, you probably remember the future tense. But did you know that there are actually two basic ways to talk about future events or actions in Spanish? One involves combining ir a with the verb describing the future action, while the other is formed by conjugating the verb which describes the future action. To keep things clear in this guide, we’re only focusing on the simple forms (not the future subjunctive or the future perfect).
Ir + a + infinitive
Spanish uses the combination of ir (“to go”) in present tense + a (“to”) + an infinitive to talk about things that you’re going to do. This case is very easy, because as far as conjugations go, it only requires the memorization of ir in the present tense. This combination is called the periphrastic future, and it should be familiar to English speakers.
Use this tense when you’re talking about things in the near future that you have already planned or things that are relatively sure.
Voy a ir al cine. I am going to go to the cinema.
Note that in English, the go-to Present tense is the Present Progressive (“am going”), so the translation looks a little different.
Ir (present tense)
|yo voy||nosotros vamos|
|tú vas||vosotros vais|
|él, ella, usted va||ellos, ellas, ustedes van|
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The futuro simple de indicativo, or synthetic future tense, is used for events more distant in the future or less specifically planned, without mentioning a specific time. More specifically, it’s used for:
1. An intention to do something in the future:
Mañana ordenaré mi habitación. I’ll tidy my bedroom tomorrow.
2. An assumption about the future:
No lo harás hoy. You won’t do it today.
3. An assumption about the present:
Imagino que llegarán hoy por la noche. I suppose they’ll be arriving tonight.
Forming the futuro simple for regular verbs is one of the easy cases in the world of verb conjugations. Simply add the endings in the chart below to the infinitive of the verb.
ir [infinitive] + -é [yo future ending]
El año que viene, iré a Puerto Rico. Next year (“this coming year”), I will go to Puerto Rico.
The endings are the same for -ar, -er, and -ir verbs!
|él, ella, usted||-á|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||-án|
Spanish uses accent marks to indicate where the stress should be placed. This is especially important for differentiating different tenses of verbs which are spelled the same, apart from the accent. All of the future tense endings except nosotros/-emos have an accent, which means the emphasis should be pronounced at the end of the word. Be careful not to rush through or leave any syllables out either – take your time!
Irregular Verbs in Future Tense
Of course, all of this simple conjugation talk only applies to regular verbs, and irregular verbs love to add their own flair into the mix! Verbs which are irregular in the future use a different stem (rather than their full infinitive form). For example, rather than conjugating haber as haberé (“I will have”), the correct form uses the irregular stem to form: habré
Here are a few of the most common verbs with irregular future stems:
|Infinitive||Stem (add futuro ending to this!)|
|tener (mantener, obtener, etc.)||tendr-|
Note: The additional “r” added to querer means you’ll need to roll your “rr” – check out this Spanish pronunciation page for help!
Other Uses for the Futuro Tense
Using the future tense to talk about the present
You may encounter a sentence like the following which seems to be discussing the present, but that uses the future tense:
¿De qué hablarán? What could they be talking about?
This type of usage indicates some uncertainty about the present state and is used to make hypotheses, speculations, or guesses about the present.
– Te llama tu madre. Your mother called.
– ¿Qué querrá ahora? What could she want now?
El mercado no está abierto. Será porque es festivo. The market isn’t open. It might be because it’s a holiday.
This usage is very closely related to the Spanish conditional tense. Depending on the situation, you may need to use the future tense to describe a situation in which one event is predicated by another.
The tense coordination rules here are the same as in English.
IF + MAIN VERB [present], SECOND VERB [present]
Si estudias [present], apruebas [present] el examen. If you study, you pass the exam.
IF + MAIN VERB [present], SECOND VERB [future]
Si gano [present] la lotería, compraré [future] un barco. If I win the lottery, I will buy a boat.
When you are reporting possible situations or circumstances that someone told you about (called “reported speech”), you sometimes use conditional. If the main clause is in the past tense, you use the conditional. When the main clause is in the present, you use the future tense.This follows the same pattern as the English conjugations.
MAIN VERB [past tense] + THAT + SECOND VERB [conditional]
Ella dijo que comería el flan. She said [past] that she would eat [conditional] the flan.
MAIN VERB [present] + THAT + SECOND VERB [future]
Ella dice que comerá el flan. She says [present] that she will eat [future] the flan.
Just as in English, use the future tense to promise or swear that you will or won’t do something.
Prometo que iré a tu fiesta. I promise that I will go to your party.
Te juro que no le contaré a nadie tu secreto. I swear that I will not tell anyone your secret.
Another usage of the future tense that isn’t strictly about the future is to give generalized commands. This roughly translates to the usage of “shall” in English, like the meaning of the Ten Commandments:
No cometerás adulterio. No robarás. No matarás. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not kill.
Callarás en el teatro. You shall/will be quiet in the theater.
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