The future tense is an important tense to learn in French. Good for you, it’s also one of the simplest! It’s very similar to the way it’s used in English, but it’s not constructed in the same way.
In English, you have the auxiliary “will” (or shall) followed by the verb. In French, we don’t have any auxiliary for the future tense, but we have a full set of conjugations.
However nowadays, the future tense is more and more competing with the near future. French people tend to use more the near future than the future tense.
Let’s see what are the differences between these two future tenses in French, and also the differences with the English future tense.
When do we use the future tense?
Just like in English, it’s used to talk about upcoming events.
Il neigera demain > It will snow tomorrow
Ils chanteront sur scène > They will sing on stage
It’s also used to express something that will happen if a condition is met.
Si tu viens ce soir, je prendrai mon livre > If you come this evening, I’ll take my book
Differences with English
– After certain constructions, when the action of the verb will take place in the future, the future tense is used in French, whereas in English the present tense is used:
Vous partirez dès qu’il sera prêt > You will leave as soon as he’s ready
(Literally “as soon as he’ll be ready”)
– Even though it’s subject to debate, the “historic future” is sometimes used by historians or journalists in French to talk about past events that are subsequent to the moment of enunciation. It’s used to give more impact to the narration. For example, a historian could write in 2018:
Edouard VIII finira par abdiquer en 1936 > Edward VIII eventually abdicated in 1936
(Literally “will eventually abdicate…”)
– The future is also sometimes used as an equivalent of the imperative mood, to give polite orders and requests. A teacher could say to his students:
Vous me remettrez vos devoirs mardi prochain > Hand me your homework next Tuesday
(Literally “You will hand me…”)
The conjugation of the future tense
In the future tense in French, you will hear, regardless whether it’s a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd group verb, always the same endings in the future tense.
–ai, –as, –a, –ons, –ez, –ont
It’s extremely simple: for verbs in “-er” and “-ir”, you just add to the infinitive these endings.
Rester, to stay : Je resterai > I will stay
Finir, to finish : Tu finiras > You will finish
For verbs in “-re”, just remove the final “e” and add the same endings.
Prendre, to take : Il prendra > He will take
Here’s a full table:
|Rester, to stay||Finir, to finish||Prendre, to take|
The only irregularity concerns just a few verbs that have irregular stems in the future tense, but they have exactly the same endings. Most are from the 3rd group, but some are also from the 1st group:
3rd group verbs:
|Être, to be : Je serai||Avoir, to have : J’aurai|
|Aller, to go : J’irai||Faire, to do/make : Je ferai|
|Pouvoir, can/be able to : Je pourrai||Vouloir, to want : Je voudrai|
|Devoir, must/to have to : Je devrai||Savoir, to know : Je saurai|
|Venir, to come : Je viendrai||Tenir, to hold : Je tiendrai|
|Ouvrir, to open : J’ouvrirai||Falloir, to have to : Il faudra|
|Dire, to say : Je dirai||Courir, to run : Je courrai|
1st group verbs:
|Appeler, to call : J’appellerai||Essayer, to try : J’essaierai|
|Acheter, to buy : J’achèterai||Nettoyer, to clean : Je nettoierai|
|Jeter, to throw : Je jetterai||Essuyer, to wipe : J’essuierai|
|Envoyer, to send : J’enverrai|
Modern pronunciation of the future tense
As I always say, there’s always a difference between traditional written French and the way it is spoken nowadays. For the future tense, the difference is not that big, but there is one.
First, know that your endings will always start with the “r” sound. Then, if there’s an “e” just before the “r”, people usually don’t pronounce it in modern spoken French.
For example, “je mangerai” is usually pronounced [ӡe mãӡrê].
The near future in French
The near future is used to express something that is going to happen soon. It corresponds to the English “to be + going + infinitive”
In French, it’s quite the same: we use the verb “aller, to go” in the present tense + the infinitive.
Je vais voir mon ami > I am going to see my friend
Elle va traduire pour nous > She will translate for us
This might make the near future the easiest tense to construct in the French language, even more than the future tense. That said, it does require the user to correctly spell the present tense of “aller, to go”.
Je vais > I go
Tu vas > You go
Il va > He goes
Nous allons > We go
Vous allez > You (plural) go
Ils vont > They go
Future tense VS Near future
Nowadays in France, you will hear less and less people using the future tense, and lot more using the near future.
In fact, unlike in English, the near future is used in French to reinforce the fact that the speaker believes the action will become real.
L’année prochaine, je vais vivre en France > Next year, I will live in France
Here I am using the near future in French, not because it’s gonna happen soon (1 year is quite long), but rather because I’m almost sure that this will happen. So that’s quite a big difference with English.
In the end, the future tense in French is not often used. We would use it more for something that is really distant in the future, or something that you seriously plan to do but that is not necessarily in the process of happening.
Quand je serai grand, je serai astronaute > When I grow up, I’ll be an astronaut
Finalement, je pense que j’irai à l’université > In the end, I think I’ll go to college