The “ing” thing (Part II)

Those three little letters—ing—seem to be everywhere! But before we move along to gerunds, present participles, and weird variations on continuous tenses, let’s take a look at the future continuous.

- You will be taking the exam on Tuesday afternoon. (Less formal: You’ll be taking the exam on Tuesday afternoon.)

- Parents will be meeting in the school auditorium.

The future continuous isn’t all that different from the regular future tense: I will do the housework tomorrow. The tourists will take a tour of the city and then meet at a restaurant for dinner.

The continuous form has a slightly different feel. Picture what will happen next week when you arrive at Kennedy Airport. “I will arrive at 3:00” sounds a little stiff and vague. But “I’ll be arriving at around 3:00” allows us to imagine you as you come through the arrival gate and spot your friend in the crowd. It’s one action - your arrival - but it continues for a little while, at least until you retrieve your luggage and catch a ride to the city!


English speakers are finicky about verb tenses. Maybe that’s because Americans care so much about time. If you say, “I went to Italy,” we’ll immediately ask you when you went. You might answer, “I have been there many times,” or “I just got back last week,” or “I went to Venice on my honeymoon in 2007.” We need more information from you than “I went,” and you can give it to us by using the right verb tense and providing a few other juicy details.

Even for advanced speakers, verbs can be extremely confusing. But instead of getting attached to one form, try playing the field! Have a good time experimenting with tenses. Experts say that it takes 6 weeks to build a new habit, so put the continuous tenses on your to-do list. Soon, you’ll be right in time with us native speakers!


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