El Futuro

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El Futuro

In the modern Spanish language the tense called "future" (Futuro), is not frequently used to refer to future. The future verb forms are mainly used to indicate probability or likelihood, to express guesses and not only about future but about present as well. In English such an idea can be conveyed by using expressions like "probably," "likely," "I suppose", modal verbs of probability or similar words or expressions. Thus, the phrase

María estará trabajando ahora.

doesn't refer to future. It means "I suppose María is working right now.".

This tense (Futuro) always indicates probability or likelihood even if the phrase refers to future. The sentense

El año que viene estaré trabajando.

is not neutral. It means something like: "I'm not sure what my plans are for next year. I might work.".

Now, a logical question arises: how to express "usual" future, not indicating anything else but future? There are two ways to do that:

  • If you are sure that an event is to take place in future, that is, you perceive it as "an accomplished fact", you are supposed to use present simple (Presento): instead of future tense (Futuro)

Mañana vienen mis padres.
Esta noche ceno con mi novia.
El año que viene acabo la carrera.

  • If you're not quite sure, but the the action/event has been arranged, you are supposed to use ir a + infinitivo

Mañana van a venir mis padres.
Esta noche voy a cenar con mi novia.
El año que viene voy a terminar la carrera.

All these phrases express simple future facts/arrangements without any additional meanings:

My parents are coming tomorrow. I'm having dinner with my girlfriend this evening. I'll finish uni next year.

In terms of statistics, the ir a + infinitivo form is the most common way to refer to (arranged) future. It does not refer to "intentions". Voy a terminar la carrera mean "я закончу университет" - не больше и не меньше. И избегайте использования испанского futuro в контекстах, связанных с моментом речи.

Let's summarize: the tomorrow's visit of the president can be translated into Spanish in three different way with three different :

Mañana viene el presidente Mañana va a venir el presidente Mañana vendrá el presidente
The president will come tomorrow. (schedule) The president is coming tomorrow. (arrangements) The president might come tomorrow. (official style/probability)

To finish up, let's clarify that the last one - the future tense (Futuro) - is still commonly used in journalism and official communications.

Autor/a Jorge Gelfand