Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This question already has an answer here:

Should I say:

When I am 18, I'll take my driving test


When I'll be 18, I'll take my driving test

Which one is the correct sentence?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Feb 28 '13 at 11:16

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

This question has been asked before, many times over. Please search the site before posting. –  RegDwigнt Feb 28 '13 at 11:19

5 Answers 5

If 'when' is used to indicate a context in the future, the 'will' becomes redundant and 'when' is followed by the present form of whatever verb.

In this case: when + subject + present simple , subject + future simple

When I know the answer, I'll call you

When he leaves for work, I'll telephone.

share|improve this answer
I think this is the best explanation of why we don't use will in the OP's sentence. –  LarsH Feb 27 '13 at 16:54
Note that (as LarsH mentions below) this depends on the type of clause; for example, we say "I don't know when I'll know the answer", not *"I don't know when I know the answer." (In traditional grammar terms, the difference is between an "adverb clause" and a "noun clause". In modern terms, I think the terms are "adjunct" and "content clause".) –  ruakh Feb 27 '13 at 23:21

Of the two sentences asked about, the first is correct and the second is incorrect.

You can also say "When I turn 18, I'll take my driving test".

You don't need "will" in both clauses, only the main clause (the second one in all these cases).

share|improve this answer

English has no future tense, but can express the future in several different ways. Will (or, in speech, ’ll) + the plain form of the main verb is one of them and is typically used to make a prediction or to express a decision about the immediate a future. For this reason, it is clearly not appropriate in your example.

Another way in which English expresses the future is by using the present tense, and this is typically used to talk about future certainties. In the example, the speaker thinks that being 18 one day is a certainty, and that is why the present tense is used.

share|improve this answer
Does the criterion of making a prediction or expressing a decision fully explain why we don't use will in the OP's sentence? We do use it in sentences like "I don't know when he'll be 18" or "The sign doesn't say when the store will be open." Do those fit the "prediction" criterion better than the OP's sentence? –  LarsH Feb 27 '13 at 16:53
It’s a good question, which could take up more space than is available here. The best I can do is to say that there is normally no need for those who are, say, 15, to predict that they will be 18. We can assume that they will live another 3 years, and there’s no element of prediction involved. That’s what makes When I'll be 18 inappropriate. The negative introductions to your examples, on the other hand, introduce some doubt over the timing, which permits the use of ’ll. –  Barrie England Feb 27 '13 at 17:47
It at least explains why it's jarring to some native speakers. That was my initial reaction to the question as well. "It makes it sound like he or she is suffering from some disease and is not sure yet if they will live to be 18." –  Affe Feb 27 '13 at 18:47
Prediction seems to fit pretty well, but I'm not so sure about uncertainty. You see, I do know when he'll be 18, because I read his birth certificate. Then there's "you will know when he is 18" (because when it happens he won't be able to stop talking about it), and "you will know when he'll be 18" (because I'll tell you later). I think that the distinction is whether the phrase is the object of discussion, or merely providing supporting context. –  Jander Feb 28 '13 at 6:13

When I am 18, I'll take my driving test

would be the correct sentence structure

share|improve this answer
Could you expound on why this is correct? –  American Luke Feb 27 '13 at 15:20

Although both clauses imply future tense, "will" is not used in the clause starting by "when". Then the first sentence is correct, the second is not.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.