How do I say will in French?

This page deals with how to translate the word will and its common variant 'll. The way to translate it depends on the different uses that will/'ll can have in English:

Simple planned action

When will/'ll is used to express a simple planned action such as I'll see you tomorrow, it is common to use a simple present tense:

je te vois demain
I'll see you tomorrow
on se voit mardi
we'll see each other on Tuesday
on s'appelle dans la semaine
we'll ring each other during the week

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Expressing an action the speaker is about to perform

As with a 'simple planned action', the present tense can be used to express an action that the speaker is about to perform. An alternative is to use the so-called immediate future construction, which consists of the present tense of aller plus an infinitive.

je te donne un coup de main or
je vais te donner un coup de main
I'll give you a hand
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However, expressing a strong promise that is further in the future, the future tense is often used.

Request

When used to form a request, such as will you help me?, a common equivalent in French is to use the verb vouloir which is followed directly by an infinitive.

tu veux m'aider avec mon français?
will you help me with my French?
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A simple present tense is also possible in this case.

Expressing capability, frequent occurrence

Sometimes will/'ll is used as an emphatic way of expressing a repetitious action in English, or to denote the capacity or capability of something. It's common to use the present tense in French with this sense:

you will often find...
on trouve souvent...
he will sometimes work weekends
ça lui arrive de travailler les week-ends
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Giving a warning

When will is used to give a warning, the most common equivalent in French is to use the immediate future:

tu vas te brûler les doigts!
you'll burn your fingers!
il va manquer le bus!
he'll miss the bus!
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Expressing a supposition

A common translation for will/'ll expressing a supposition is to use the present tense of devoir followed directly by an infinitive, or else to use the expression je suppose...:

il doit avoir au moins 30 ans
he'll be at least 30
je suppose qu'il est déjà arrivé
(I suppose) he'll be there by now
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Matter-of-fact statements

In most cases other than the above, a common translation for will/'ll is to use the future tense:

on viendra ce dimanche
we'll come this Sunday
je crois que je pourrai venir
I think I'll be able to come
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How to translate won't

Where won't is the negative equivalent of one of the above senses of will/won't, then generally the French equivalent is to use the negative construction ne ... pas with the appropriate tense or construction as indicated above. For example:

il ne pourra pas venir
he won't be able to come
on ne se voit pas (avant ton départ)
we won't see each other (before you leave)
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However, where won't... carries a strong meaning of refuses to..., can't be made to..., it is common to use vouloir in French:

ma voiture ne veut pas démarrer
my car won't start
il ne veut pas m'aider
he won't help me
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See also...

Usage of the future tense in French.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.