In the following sentence, "Hurry, give me anything that will hold water!" What verb tense is "will hold" ? Not future simple, I presume.

  • Today's English has no "future" tense. There are two primary tenses: present, past. Your verb "will" is present tense.
    – F.E.
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 1:33
  • Consider: "will hold" versus "would hold". The verb "will" is present tense, the verb "would" is past tense. If you're interested in how today's English references the future, then this Language Log article may interest you: itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/005471.html
    – F.E.
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 1:39

2 Answers 2


You have only two possibilities: a) future simple - will as auxiliary verb b) will as modal verb such as can

As future tense makes no sense at all it can only be possibility b) and then the tense is present tense of "will".

The meaning is nothing but

1 something that holds water or

2 something that can hold water.

Due to the ambiguity of will + infinitive the use of "will" as a modal verb is somewhat limited, mostly to negative forms as in

  • I tried but the door would not open. The door is jammed.

As to your sentence above this use of "will" looks like the language of an earlier time or like individual or regional habit of speech.

As to your sentence above this use of "will" looks like language of an earlier time or an individual habit of speech or a regional variant of speech.

  • When I was a medical student I saw this use of "will", more than once, in Textbooks of Physiology. In sentences such as: ...during exercise the right ventricle will pump more blood into the pulmonar artery." which I understand means "can pump" or "pumps".
    – Centaurus
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 14:52

It is future simple.

An alternative construction would be

Hurry, give me anything that holds water!

This would make sense and would be a simple present. Something that holds water now will also hold water in the foreseeable future.

Because the holding has not yet occurred, but will occur once the vessel is put into service,

Something will hold water [soon].


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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