Future Tenses: Going to/Present Continuous

In Swiss German, future tenses aren’t really necessary. Most of the time, words or phrases like ‘tomorrow’, ‘next month’, ‘next year’, or ‘noch’ (whatever the English equivalent of ‘noch’ is in this context…) serve as indicators of the future.

It doesn’t work that way in English, however. We can use two tenses when talking about future plans or decisions: be going + infinitive or the present continuous.

Why some Swiss students get it wrong

Although you could use the future form in Swiss German, speakers tend to use the present tense when talking about plans, decisions or intentions. Here are a few direct translations to give you an idea:

I helf morn mim Fründ bim Zügle.    I help tomorrow my friend with moving.
I fang nörscht Johr mit em Studium a.    I start next year with (my) studies
Mir grillet/grillieret dä Fritig bi mir dihei.    We grill this Friday at my place.
Er chauft sich bald ä neus Auto.    He buys (himself) soon a new car.

As you can see, literal translation doesn’t really work, since the tense is missing in English (even if you use words like tomorrow, next week, etc.). Basic tenses such as past, present and future tenses exist in many languages. However, speakers have to abide by distinct grammatical rules in different languages. Let’s have a look at how we talk about the future in English.

be going to

We use this structure when talking about something that is already planned or decided.

I‘m going to help my friend move tomorrow.
I‘m going to start university next year.
We‘re going to have a BBQ at my place this Friday.
He‘s going to get a new car soon.

When the following verb is go, we can omit it:

We‘re going to go to Malta. We‘re going to Malta.

We can also use this form to predict events:

It‘s going to rain soon.
Slow down! We‘re going to crash!

Present Continuous

When talking about plans or arrangements, we can also use the present continuous form. In some cases, both forms can be used interchangeably.

I‘m going to meet up with him on Saturday.
I‘m meeting up with him on Saturday.

We often specify a future time such as tomorrow, on Monday, etc., unless the time has already been specified in conversation.

We‘re getting pizza and playing Mario Kart tomorrow night.
Is she coming over this Friday?


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