When to use the future tense in French

The future tense is used in French in many cases where English would use will ... or will be ...ing. The key differences between the use of these tenses in French and English is as follows:

  • French has a greater tendency to use the present tense in simple statements of 'planned events', such as je te vois demain (vs English I'll see you tomorrow);
  • French generally uses the future tense in subordinate clauses such as quand tu reviendras, dès que le vent soufflera whereas in English one would say when you come back; as soon as the wind blows. However, the previous comment about 'planned events' means that in informal speech it's actually common to hear a present tense, e.g. dis-lui quand il revient (rather than ... quand il reviendra);
  • The English notion shall used to make a suggestion or offer (shall I give you a hand?) is usually expressed with a present tense in French: (je te donne un coup de main?);
  • The future tense in French is commonly used as a 'future in the past' or 'historic future'. It's common (and often mistranslated) in museum signs, e.g. le roi mourra en 1654. The nearest English equivalent would be an expression using would: the kind would die in 1654.

Further reading...

Correct Your French Blunders

Pages 202-207 give a concise overview of the formation and use of the future tense, with a handful of exercises.

 French grammar index
 French-English dictionary
 English-French dictionary

This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2017. All rights reserved.