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5. Present tenses for the future


1 Present Continuous for arrangements

Tom: Are you doing anything this evening?
Nick: Yes, I'm going to an ice hockey match. The Tigers are playing the Kings. I bought my ticket yesterday.

We use the Present Continuous for what someone has arranged to do in the future.
Here Nick has arranged to go to the match. (He has bought a ticket.)
Here are some more examples.
I'm meeting Harriet at six o'clock.
We're having a party tomorrow.
David is coming round later on.
Sarah is going to Paris next week.

We also use the Present Continuous to talk about things happening now.
Present: We're having a party at the moment.
Future: We're having a party tomorrow.
Here the phrase of time shows whether we mean the present or the future. But sometimes there is no phrase of time, as when Nick says The Tigers are playing the Kings. Here it is clear from Tom's question that the conversation is about a future event.

The Present Continuous for the future and be going to have similar meanings.
We're having a party next week. (We have made the arrangements.)
We're going to have a party next week. (We intend / We have decided to have one.)
Often we can use either form.
I'm meeting/I'm going to meet Harriet at six o'clock.

2 Present Simple for a timetable

Mark: What time does your train leave tomorrow?
Sarah: Seven twenty-three in the morning. It gets into Paris at eleven twenty-three.
We can use the Present Simple for the future when we are talking about a timetable, usually a public one such as a train timetable.
The train leaves at seven twenty-three tomorrow morning.
The match starts at half past seven.
Next Friday is the thirteenth.
I've got the tour details here. We spend three days in Rome.
Compare the Present Simple for repeated actions.
The train leaves at seven twenty-three every morning.

3 Be to and be about to

We use be to for a future event that is officiaHy arranged.
It is often used in news reports.
The Queen is to visit Portugal in November.
The Student Games are to take place in Melbourne next year.
We could also use the Present Continuous here.
The Queen is visiting Portugal in November.

We use be about to for the very near future.
The plane is at the end of the runway. It is about to take off.
Do you want to say goodbye to our visitors? They're about to leave.

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