Are You using WILL too much in the Simple Future Tense? (with Audio)

Are you using Will Too Much?If you’re like the great majority of English learners from beginners to advanced levels, you use WILL way too much when talking about the future.

As you read this, you might be thinking, “That’s not me. Everybody understands me, and I know that my grammar is correct, so what’s the problem?”

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Using WILL all the time is not the worst habit in the world, and if you’re a beginner or intermediate student, it can be a great “crutch” (support mechanism) for your conversational skills, but it prevents you from communicating the subtle aspects of your future plans, intentions, and schedules.

If your English is at least at a conversational level, it’s a great time to start diversifying your repertoire of future forms.

A good way to start doing this is with “going to” (to be + going to + verb) and its variation, “gonna,” as we talked about in the last article in this series. Another way, as we will talk about today, is to learn the ins and outs  (the details) of WILL.

101 Words You Will Never Learn in School

Today you will learn everything you need to know about using WILL to talk about the future, including:

  1. Basic structure/conjugation
  2. Problems with overusing “Will”
  3. Contractions & Dynamic Native Pronunciation
  4. Proper uses 

Basic Conjugation of Will

I will (I’ll) / I will not (I won’t)

You will (You’ll) / You will not (You won’t)

He will (He’ll) / He will not (He won’t)

She will (She’ll) / She will not (She won’t)

It will (It’ll) / It will not (It won’t)

We will (We’ll)  / We will not (We won’t)

They will (They’ll) / They will not (They won’t)

*We will talk more about contractions and pronunciation below

The Problem With Overusing WILL 

Before we discuss the uses and pronunciation of will, I am going to explain the problem with using WILL too much, and how it tends to make you sound like a beginner or intermediate speaker, even for advanced and fluent speakers.

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with using WILL all the time. It can even be a good thing for some people. It is useful because it’s simple, easy to learn, and it works in a very concrete way. But there comes a time when you have to leave behind your crutches and learn to imitate native speakers.

So what are some of the problems people have?

  • English learners tend to oversimplify the use of “Will,” and use it to talk about everything in the future because they feel comfortable using it.
  • Other future forms are more complicated, and can demand a deeper intuition about the language, which requires more contact with native speaking sources.
  • Native speakers tend to use “will” a lot with contractions, which English learners generally neglect because of pronunciation difficulties. Americans, for example, don’t say “I’ll call you,” we say “all-call-you.”

Contractions & Pronunciation For Will

Two surprising secrets that make the future use of WILL more problematic are the awkward (strange and uncomfortable) pronunciation of the contractions.

1. English learners of all levels generally have a hard time pronouncing and using contractions the way they are taught in school.

2. Most students never really learn, or pay attention to the fact that native speakers (at least Americans) pronounce these contractions in a completely different and surprising way than students learn.

I will: “I’ll” (what people Learn) | All(how natives really speak)

You will: = “You’ll” (What People Learn) | “Yull” (how natives really speak)

She will: = “She’ll” (What People Learn) | “Shill” (how natives really speak)

He will: = “He’ll” (What People Learn) | “Hill” (how natives really speak)

It will: = “It’ll” (What People Learn) | “Id’ul” (how natives really speak)

We will: =“We’ll” (What People Learn) | “Will” (how natives really speak)

They will: = “They’ll” (What People Learn) | Thill (how natives really speak)

You guys will: = “No contraction” (What People Learn) | You guys’ul (how  natives really speak)

*NOTES: The sentence we’ll talk later” is pronounced “Will talk lader.” It seems like we are eliminating the subject pronoun (we), but is this is not the case. We will = We’ll (prounced “will”). Another important thing to know is that we don’t write this way.

Video Explanation by Rachel’s English

Rachel’s explanation, which starts at 6:25 in video, does a great job explaining many of the aspects that we talked about above.

Keep Listening to the Rest

  • As Rachel talks about in the video, the “ll” contraction is considered a dark L sound and therefore pronounced as a vowel-like “ul” sound. Depending on your native language and culture, learners generally have difficulty with this.
  • There are instances where the pronunciation of certain ‘T’ sounds becomes ‘D”. This is called a Flap T.  See explanation below.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’ll call you later if you’ll give me your number (“all” call you later if “yull” give me your phone number).
  • We’ll come to your party if he’ll invite us, but I think it’ll rain, so I’m not sure if you guys’ll want to go with us. (“will” come to your party if “hill” invite us, but I think “id-ll” rain, so I’m not sure if you “guys’ul want to go with us.)

*NOTE: Notice the pronunciation of the “T Sound.” This is another confusing pronunciation topic that we’ve written about in English Pronunciation Made Easy: 3 Native Secrets to Understanding and Pronouncing the “T” Sound

A few more contractions:

  • How will = How’ll = “howl
  • Where will = Where’ll = “where-ul
  • When will = When’ll =  “when-ul
  • *What will = What’ll = “whad-ul”

* “What will” is pronounced “whad-ul” because of the American flap D pronunciation rule. In American English, when a “t” is between two vowel or vowel-like sounds– it is pronounced as a soft D- like “better,” “later,” “Seattle.” Read more about this common pronunciation rule. 

The Correct Uses of WILL

USE 1: No previous plan/Offering to do something

The following situations are spontaneous decisions with no prior plan before the time of speaking, or when the speaker volunteers to do something on the spot (at that moment).

  • (Situation: somebody knocks on the door unexpectedly) “Hold on, I’ll get it.”
  • (Situation: at a restaurant, ordering food) “I’ll have a soda and French fries.” 

USE 2: A promise

When you make a promise about the future.

  •  (Situation: saying goodbye to girlfriend) “I’ll call you when I get home.”
  • (Situation: After doing poorly on a test) “I’ll do better next time.”

USE 3: Combined with THINK

Will is often used with Think. This expresses a desire, or even a preference for a future action, but it’s not as strong or certain as other future forms.

  • I think I’ll go to New York on vacation.

I would like to, I probably will, but there’s no plan, no schedule, and the intention is not as strong as “I’m going to go to New York on vacation.”

  • Do you think you’ll go to the party on Saturday? 

Asking if you have the intention.

  • I don’t think I’ll go to work today.

“I don’t think” here is often a way to politely decline to do something.

Future Simple Mind Map

future simple

Use 4: Prediction (without evidence)

This prediction is not as strong as using “be + going to + verb.”

  • It will rain on the weekend.

No clouds in the sky. If I were to say, “it’s going to rain on the weekend,” I have some evidence, like clouds. 

  • Brazil will win the world cup.

No evidence. If I were to say, “Brazil is going to win the world cup,” I have some evidence or reason to believe this.

  • You will do great on the test.

No evidence. It’s more based on faith. If I were to say, “you’re going to do great on the test,” I have some evidence or reason to believe this. 

USE 5: To be

The verb “to be” is often an exception to the rest of the rules/tendencies with “will.” You can use it even if you don’t have a firm plan and are not speaking spontaneously.

  • Schedules- The meeting will be at 11:00 in the morning (schedule)
  • Promise- I will be there on time
  • Promise- I’ll be back (famous line from Terminator promising his return)

Check out the Terminator “I’ll be back” clip!

How to Apply What You’ve Learned!

go for itSo now that you’ve learned how and when to use WILL, when not to use it, and the American pronunciation of the contractions, you’re ready to get to work and apply it.  Here’s your call to action:

  • Pay attention to how native speakers use it in English For Life (TV, movies, podcasts, radio, etc), play around with the contractions and pronunciation, and if you can, ask for feedback from native speakers. (Speaking English Online: 5 Ways to Improve Your Fluency)
  • Learn how to use other future forms like going to and gonna, and keep your eyes open for articles on other future forms (present continuous, simple present, and an overview of all of them.)
  • Relax and have fun!

We would love to hear from you in the comments. Take care!

21 Comments

  1. JJ OL on August 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Wow I really liked this article very simple… I liked the explanation..the audio was a good bull's-eye on this article makes me understand everything! and good work darling the best of luck! good work for real!

  2. Diego Davi on August 20, 2013 at 12:05 am

    The best set of explanations ever guys! I'm amazed!

  3. Justin Murray on August 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

    JJ, Thank you for the nice comment! It's nice to know that it's helpful. Thank YOU!

  4. Justin Murray on August 20, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Thanks Diego, I really appreciate your feedback! I'm glad it was useful.

  5. Rachel Chen on August 20, 2013 at 1:57 am

    It's very useful for my Ss. Like it a lot.

  6. Enen Chita Rostika on August 20, 2013 at 3:09 am

    you are great!

  7. English learner on August 20, 2013 at 5:09 am

    I absolutely LOVE that mind map! Will be printing it out.

  8. Hamza Belouizdad on August 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    hi I want to be your friend but I can t add u cuz I have problem with my fb please add me if u want

  9. Siti Aisah on August 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    a simple article, very usefull, thanks dear!

  10. Valter Lucio Maringolo on August 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Absolutely amazing! You encompassed a lot of aspects of the subject in one single article in a very didactic way. Congratulations for the quality and thanks a lot for sharing.

  11. Andrei Cuzuioc on August 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    The article is complete of what we need to know of future tense: "will and going to".

  12. João Leite on August 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I wish you keep doing that so natural like drinking water after runing in the park.
    Congretulations.

    • Justin on August 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks João. I’m really glad this stuff is useful for you! Thanks for another nice comment.

  13. Hernita Situmorang on August 30, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this article. As beginner in English , this article is really helpful for me,, Thank you 🙂

    • Justin on August 30, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Thanks Hernita, I’m glad it was helpful. I really appreciate the comment! Take care.

  14. Wilson Neto on August 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    "if you “guys’ul” want to go with us" Not all americans speaks like that. That sound more like southie people. I lived in Boston for 12 years and they don´t contract the WILL like in the text. Great article by the way!

  15. Mehdi Sufi on October 2, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Nice

  16. Edgar Luna on February 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Great page!

  17. Zulmira Andrade Rabelo on March 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Thank you Justin! As always i can understand perfectely. This article open our mind to paying more attention in the contractions. Good article.

  18. Zulmira Andrade Rabelo on March 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Thank you Justin! As always i can understand perfectely. This article open our mind to paying more attention in the contractions. Good article.

  19. Justin Murray on March 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Hey Zulmira, Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad it was useful for you 🙂 Have a great day!

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