I have encountered in some grammar books that you can never have the future tense in the sub-ordinate clause when the main clause is also in the future tense. It seems to hold in conditional clauses and time clauses (those that contain when, if etc).

Based on that, the sentence "What will be will be" has always stuck out in my mind as an abberation.

So my question is, is this an actual rule? That is, should the above sentence be rewritten in some way to make it grammatically sound?
For example by replacing what will be by what is to be or what is going to be or something in that line.

Another such example: I will decide what I will do

  • 1
    At least one of my grammar books makes it clear that "if ... will" is possible, e.g. If you will come this way, I'll show you your room, We'll go home now if it will make you feel better. Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 20:02
  • I think the 'will' in your examples does not indicate the future, it signifies willingness etc.
    – Arun
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 5:14
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    What do your grammar book say about is going to? Is it in future tense? Because it talks about future? Because it talks about willingness? Is I will decide (or I will do X) about future or about willingness? What is tense? What is future tense? Does English have the future tense at all? Is She'll be on the same train as we will tomorrow an aberration too? I'm afraid I have no answer for all that. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 8:37
  • I agree with you. It's not clear to me what 'future' as a tense means. Acc. to book 'be going to' might be fine. To comment on your earlier examples, I think you use 'will' in if-clauses to indicate persuasion or on the part of the subject, an obstinate unwillingness such as :"If she won't behave I can't help her". And in a normal sentence like 'He will do it', 'will' indicates both future, as well as willingness. This contrasts with 'shall' as in "He shall do it" which only indicates future and not willingness to do it. Of course, this distinction no more remains in modern English.
    – Arun
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 10:10

1 Answer 1


I think the claim you have encountered is plain wrong.

As you say, we never use the future (will form) in a conditional or temporal clause, but it's fine in other kinds of subordinate clause (including, for example, concessive clauses with although).

  • Would it be possible for you to please provide references?
    – Arun
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 5:15

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