Alternative Ways to Express Future

There are some other ways to talk about the future without using future tenses.

Exam in Mind Level B1+/B2

The other ways to talk about the future

We use a number of expressions with main verb be when we refer to the future, especially the immediate future.

Be to 

We use be + full infinitive to talk about events in the future. It’s quite formal and is often used by journalists.

  • The prime minister is to open a new factory.
  • The motorway is to shut for maintenance.
  • The actor is to be awarded for his services to theatre.

Be to + base form of the verb is rather formal and has restricted uses: 

Obligations (Be to refers to what someone is obliged or required to do. We also use it to refer to formal decisions, arrangements, duties):

  • If I am not to tell anyone, then that’s simply not fair. (making decisions at a business meeting)
  • So, George is to contact the Stockholm office, and Patricia is to speak to the Elsico representative. Agreed?
  • OPEC representatives are to meet in Geneva next Tuesday.

Commands and instructions

  • You are to report to the head office by 8.30 am.
  • Shes not to be late. OK?
  • You are to deliver these flowers by 10.
  • I am to be there by 8.
  • All students are to assemble in the hall at 9.00.
  • You are not to cross the road without me! 


Be to is common in newspaper headlines to refer to events which have been fixed or decided. We don’t always use the verb:

Prime Minister to announce emergency plan on climate change. (a headline – used without a verb) (Full form: The Prime Minister is to announce an emergency plan on climate change.)

Be due to

We use be due + full infinitive to talk about scheduled events, things that are expected or planned to happen at a certain time. Be due to is often used with timetables and with a time expression:

  • Are you due to hand in homework today?
  • The train is due to arrive at Glasgow Central at 12:12.
  • The plane is due to aarive in half an hour.
  • Clare’s due to have her operation in three week’s time.
  • Lynn’s train is due to arrive at 9:37.
  • Her parents are due to leave this evening.
  • Ivana’s exam‘s due to finish at noon.
  • The visitors are due to arrive at the factory at 10:30.

Due may be used without infinitive as well. For example: be due at. If something is due at a particular time, it is expected to happen, be done, or arrive at that time:

  • The results are due at the end of the month.
  • The train is due at 7.

Be sure to/Be bound to

We use be sure to / be bound to to talk about a future event we are confident will happen.

  • John‘s sure to be late. He always is.
  • Lena was bound to win. She’s so much better at tennis than Carmela.
  • It‘s bound to rain tomorrow. It always does when we have a picnic.

Be about to

Be about to is used to talk about things which are going to happen very soon, in the immediate future. It is often used with just for emphasis:

  • Im about to eat. Can I phone you back?
  • Were just about to set off for a walk. Do you want to come?
  • They are about to leave.  
  • I think the play is about to start now.  
  • The ferry is about to leave.
  • The driver is about to collect them. Shall I phone to stop him?

When used in the past, be about to can refer to things that were going to happen but didn’t:

  • was about to complain but he came over and apologised.
  • He was about to leave for the airport when he found that he’d left his passport in the hotel safe.

We don’t use be about to with time expressions, we use the present simple:

  • was about to call you. I was about to call you in ten minutes.
  • Hurry up, please! The coach is about to leaveHurry up, please! The coach leaves in five minutes!

Be on the verge of / on the brink of / on the point of / on the edge of

We use be on the verge of / on the brink of  / on the point of / on the edge of (на межі) for events that are going to happen very soon. These phrases are followed by nouns or gerundsThe expressions be on the edge / point / verge /brink of (doing) something refer to actions that happen in the near future and have a meaning similar to be about to:

  • The volcano was on the verge of erupting.
  • The minister was on the brink of resigning.
  • The countries were on the verge of war.
  • They are on the point of leaving.
  • Mary is on the verge of resigning.
  • I was on the point of leaving my job but then I got promoted so I changed my mind.
  • She is on the point of bursting into tears.
  • Researchers are on the verge of a breakthrough.

Present Simple Tense with a future meaning

We often use a present tense with a future meaning after verbs such as hopeplanaimintendwant and propose. The verb that follows is in the infinitive.

  • Vicky hopes to finish her studies and find a job next year.
  • Kate intends to buy a house after saving for a few years.
  • George plans to live abroad.

Have practice in using other ways to talk about the future

Task 1. Choose the correct variant to complete the sentences.

1. The Queen ______ to visit the scene of the disaster and meet survivors.
A. is
B. will
C. going
2. We’ll see Carlos very soon. His flight ______ in ten minutes.
A. is bound to land
B. is due to landing
C. is due to land
3. Lewis Hamilton is ______ winning another Formula 1 world title. There’s only one race to go.
A. bound to
B. on the verge of
C. to
4. Frank ______ to visit Mount Fuji when he visits Japan but he’s not sure he’ll have time.
A. hopes
B. is bound
C. is on the verge of
5. Their marriage is sure ______ . They have totally different opinions about everything.
A. ending
B. end
C. to end

Task 2. Choose the right options.

  1. With such poor sales figures, they’re due / bound / about to go bankrupt sooner or later.
  2. The horse has been training well and is due / bound / about to win a race soon.
  3. There was chaos at the airport this morning due / bound / about to the fog.
  4. He looks angry- I think he’s due / bound / about to lose his temper completely.
  5. I was due / bound / about to leave the car when I realised I had left the lights on.
  6. She’s due / bound / about to retire in the summer when she reaches the age.
  7. With such bad performances, the team is  due / bound / about to finish last.
  8. I had my coat on and was due / bound / about to leave when the phone rang.
  9. He was due / bound / about  to appear in court last Monday but he didn’t show up.
  10. When one drives fast, one is due / bound / about  to have an accident.
  11. When the boss looks angry, we know he is due / bound / about to lose his temper.
  12. I checked with the station- the train is due / bound / about to get in at 7.30.
  13. The way he drives, he’s due / bound / about to have an accident some day.
  14. I called the airport and was told the plane is due / bound / about to land at 9.00 am.
  15. Fasten your seat belts, the plane is due / bound / about to land.
  16. They’re due / bound / about to be late, they can never wake up on time.

I hope you’re on the brink of understanding some other ways to talk about the future.