Present Continuous vs Be Going to

We use both going to and present continuous to speak about future plans.

Exam in Mind Level A2/B1

What do Going To and Present Continuous have in common?

Both going to and present continuous are used to express the same idea. Going to and present continuous are used to talk about future plans or arrangements when we say that something is going to happen and it is usually already decided or planned:

  • We are going to get new windows. We are getting new windows.
  • I am visiting my granny this weekend. I am going to visit my granny this weekend.

As you can see, both sentences express nearly the same idea.

What is the difference between Going To and Present Continuous?

The key difference between going to and present continuous is:

  • going to can be used to talk about general plans, intentions as well as events that are likely to happen: I am going to buy a new smartphone.
  • the present continuous is used to talk about a fixed arrangement: I am buying a new smartphone on Saturday. 

The present continuous tense is common with verbs of movement (to come, to fly, to go, to leave, to arrive, etc.):

  • I am just popping out to the café.
  • Are you coming to the party?
  • They are flying to Madrid next week. 
  • When is she coming back? 
  • They’re arriving on Sunday.

The present continuous tense is mainly used to talk about personal arrangements and fixed plans.

Be going to can also be used to express the same idea; however, it puts an extra emphasis on the idea of intention.

  • I am going to get a new job. (= I intend to get a job.)
  • I am getting a new job. (= It is already decided / arranged. Here the focus is on the arrangement.)
  • What are you doing this evening? (A question about arrangements)
  • Are you going to do anything about that letter you received from the civic authorities? (A question about the intentions of the listener)
  • I am seeing Peter tomorrow. (Here the emphasis is on the arrangement that already exists.)
  • I am going to ask him to stop borrowing my car. (Here the emphasis is on the intentions of the speaker.)

Pronunciation Notes:

In informal speech, going to before another verb often sounds like “gonna.” In formal English, we don’t write “gonna.”
I’m not “gonna” work after retirement.

Only going to before another verb sounds like “gonna.” We don’t pronounce “gonna” before
a noun or a noun phrase.
He’s going to the store.

The present continuous is not used to talk about events that are outside people’s control:

  • Look at the sky. It is going to rain.
  • Prices are going to fall.

The sentences ‘It is raining’ and ‘Prices are falling’ have altogether different meanings. They are used to talk about actions or situations that are in progress at the moment.

Going to can be used to talk about something that is likely to happen. Present continuous cannot be used to talk about something that is likely to happen:

  • It’s 9 o’clock and I’m not ready. I’m going to be late.
  • Look! That boy is going to fall off his bike!

Use going to and present continuous in sentences of your own to speak about the future.

Ways to Express the Future. Have Practice

Exercise 1. Fill in the correct form of the verb to speak about the future (Future Simple, Future Continuous, Present Continuous, be going to). In some sentences several forms are possible.

  1. They __________________________ driving to New York tomorrow evening. (DRIVE)
  2. I offered him a job last week and I think he __________________________ it. (TAKE)
  3. I hope the weather __________________________ nice when you get to Sardinia. (BE)
  4. We __________________________ married on June 25th. (GET)
  5. I suppose real estate prices __________________________ up again next year. (GO)
  6. What __________________________ when you grow up? – I __________________________ a pilot. (YOU DO, BE)
  7. I am __________________________ football this afternoon so I can’t make it to the party. (PLAY)
  8. Put your wallet away. I __________________________ for the tickets. (PAY)
  9. I _____________________________ John at the airport tomorrow at 5.30. (MEET)
  10. Take the umbrella with you. I think it __________________________ in the afternoon.(RAIN)
  11. I think I __________________________ a cup of tea after all. (HAVE)
  12. Ask Mary. She __________________________ the answer (PROBABLY KNOW)
  13. Which car __________________________ to buy? (YOU PLAN)
  14. Jack missed the train. He __________________________ late again. (BE)
  15. All our stores __________________________ next Monday at 10.00 a.m. (OPEN)
  16. We __________________________ our holidays in France next year. (SPEND)
  17. What do you want to eat? – I think I __________________________ a sandwich. (HAVE)
  18. We have to go now. It __________________________ late. (GET)
  19. I can’t talk about it now, but I __________________________ you a mail next week. (SEND)
  20. The Jacksons __________________________ a party tomorrow afternoon, but they haven’t invited us. (HAVE)

Exercise 2. Use the verb in brackets in the correct form to express the future.

  1. Tony _____________ a friend tomorrow.(meet)
  2. I think it  _____________ soon.(snow)
  3. Perhaps I  _____________ New York one day.(visit)
  4. What time ____________ tomorrow?(leave/you)
  5. Who  _____________ the next World Cup? (win)
  6. I’m sure you _____________ the exam next week. (not fail)
  7. I  _____________ my parents at the weekend. (visit)
  8. Don’t touch that dog. It  _____________ you. (bite)
  9. They _____________ for a meal tonight.(come)
  10. Look at those clouds, it _____________.(rain)

Exercise 3. Choose the best form to express the future.

 1. Our flight _____________ at eight o’clock.

a. leaves
b. will leave
c. is going to leave

2. I _____________ Sarah this afternoon. We need to discuss our plans for the summer.

a. will meet
b. meet
c. am meeting

3. Everyone you invited _____________ to the dinner.

a. will come
b. comes
c. is coming

4. The film _____________ at nine, so I’ll pick you up at half eight.

a. is starting
b. is going to start
c. starts

5. It looks like the presentation _____________ any moment.

a. will start
b. starts
c. is going to start

6. We _____________ the final at my place tonight. Do you want to come?

a. are watching
b. watch
c. will watch

7. John has got a promotion so he _____________ in London.

a. will live
b. is going to live
c. lives

8. I am fed up of the cold here. I _____________ in a warmer place.

a. am going to live.
b. will live
c. would like to live

9. How many books did you buy? – I don’t know. __________ them.

a. I’m going to count
b. I count
c. I’ll count
d. I’m counting

10. Have you decided what to do about your broken washing machine? – Yes. __________ tomorrow.

a. I have it fixed
b. I’ll have it fixed
c. I’m going to have it fixed

11. What time does the History class start tomorrow? –  __________ at two-thirty.

a. It is going to start
b. It starts
c. It will start

12. There’s no milk in the fridge. – Really? __________ some tomorrow.

a. I’ll get
b. I’m going to get
c. I’m getting

13. Has Sue made up her mind about university yet? – Yes. I spoke to her last night. __________ to Calgary.

a. She will go
b. She goes
c. She’s going to go

14. Have you ever been to Paris? – No, but __________ next year with my parents.

a. I’ll go
b. I’m going
c. I go

15. What time should we go to the airport? – The plane __________ in half an hour. I think we should leave now.

a. will land
b. lands
c. land

16. It’s starting to rain. – Don’t worry. __________ you my umbrella.

a. I’ll lend
b. I lend
c. I’m lending

17. Joe borrowed your car. – What? __________ him. I need it!

a. I’m killing
b. I’ll kill
c. I kill

18. Are you free for lunch tomorrow? – Sorry! __________ tennis with Yong Soo.

a. I play
b. I’m playing
c. I’ll play

19. The train __________ at 11.20.

a. will arrive
b. is going to arrive
c. arrives

20. Wait! I __________ you.

a. will help
b. am going to help
c. am helping

21. As we want to get better marks in English, we __________ harder in the future.

a. will study
b. are going to study
c. are studying

22. Josh __________ to the cinema with his friends tonight.

a. will go
b. is going to go
c. is going

23. I am afraid they __________ everything by the time we arrive.

a. will eat
b. are going to eat
c. will have eaten

Exercise 4. Complete the sentences for situations in the future. Decide which tense you need to use.
  1. Aaron is carrying two tyres – he ___________ (change)  the tyres on a car.
  2. Next week ___________  (be)  the beginning of winter and the weather forecast says that there ___________ (be)  snow tomorrow.
  3. That’s why many of the garage’s customers have made an appointment and ___________ (call in)  today to get their winter tyres.
  4. By the end of the day, Aaron___________ (mount)  about 80 tyres.
  5. He ___________ (be/probably)  tired after that.
  6. It’s a lot of work for one day, but his customers promise that next year they ___________ (have)  their tyres changed earlier.
  7. That’s what they always say, but they ___________(forget/surely)  about it by next year.
  8. Some customers have agreed that they ___________ (pick up)  their cars tomorrow.
  9. They have decided to go home by bus, which ___________ (stop)  in front of the garage every hour.