As for the tense of that clause after "make sure", what is the difference between present tense or future tense.

Thank you so much!

  • Erm.. could you clarify a bit more please.. as in what do you mean by difference b/w present and future tense for that clause? In future it can be written as - Make sure you submit the project on time or Make sure to pay up the insurance premium
    – Invoker
    May 17, 2014 at 15:05
  • I found that we could use present tense to represent the future in the that-clause after "make sure", such as "Make sure that you attend my birthday party." or "Make sure you lock the door before you leave.". But I also found online that the future tense could also be used in this situation, such as "How to make sure you will never buy anything you won't wear". So I am wondering whether there is a difference. When should I use present tense or future tense?
    – April
    May 17, 2014 at 15:15
  • Are you attempting to contrast make sure he is here with make sure that he will be here, or possibly even make sure he be here?
    – tchrist
    May 17, 2014 at 16:42
  • There is no relation between make sure and the tense of its object complement; the verb in the complement clause can be either past or present tense. There is no future tense in English, but modals like can or will or may also occur in tensed that clauses, just as they do in tensed main clauses. May 17, 2014 at 17:18

4 Answers 4


Using the present tense after make sure can have two possible meanings:

  • Future tense (usually, but not always, one-off or limited scope)
  • Generic, universal time (usually unlimited scope)

If you say, “Make sure you lock the door when you go”, the most likely interpretation is the first: it is a reminder to close the door on one specific occasion in the future, when you're leaving.

If you say, “Always make sure you put on plenty of sunscreen when going to the beach”, the only possible interpretation (because of the word ‘always’) is the second: you should always put on sunscreen when going to the beach. This is not limited to a single occasion, but is generically and universally true, both in the past, present, and future.

Using a future construction after make sure is much rarer than the present construction. The future here has the exact same meaning as the present tense, except that it is limited to the first of the two senses listed above.

If in doubt, just use the present tense: it is both far more common and is always able to carry the meaning you are looking for.


I would suggest that the verb which follows 'make sure' is expressed as an imperative.

'Make sure you score a goal!', is approximately the same thing as saying 'Score a goal!'.

In the imperative voice the only tense used, I would suggest, is the present. But do please tell me if I am wrong.

  • I don't know. But I think you explanation makes sense. Thanks a lot!
    – April
    May 17, 2014 at 15:24
  • 4
    It is not an imperative morphologically. “Make sure he eats all his vegetables” or “Make sure you are home before 10” = simple indicative present. It is semantically similar to an imperative, but I don't think that's really relevant to this question. May 17, 2014 at 15:30
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes. I see what you mean. But I'm not clear why we use the present tense. I was thinking that in French one would use the future, but I have just looked it up, and they too use the present. 'Faites en sorte que tous se passe bien'.
    – WS2
    May 17, 2014 at 15:39

To my understanding, "make sure" should be followed by the future when you want to say that the person prepares or is preparing everything he needs to in order not to miss doing something in the future. For instance, he is making sure he will see you on Monday.

In that context, maybe, he is setting an alarm-clock to remind himself and writing a note about it on a piece of paper on a wall.


I would somewhat agree with WS2 there, but the implementation of make sure implies another layer of reinforcement upon the other person. So saying only Score a goal would not be same as present tense of Make sure to score a goal.

So what I suggest is addition of another specific word to make it more precise :-

Positively score a goal


Score a goal, positively.

By adding the word positively we add another layer of enforcement upon the other subject, or so should I say.

  • “Positively score a goal” is very odd English to my ear. How do you negatively score a goal? May 17, 2014 at 15:39
  • @JanusBahsJacquet really? pretty sure you don't speak English much.. positive and positively are different, google for more info!
    – Invoker
    May 17, 2014 at 15:42
  • I speak English every day of my life. Positively is not used with imperatives in the sense you're using it here in any kind of English I've ever been exposed to. “He positively killed ’em out there” is fine if describing someone's performance in a game, say; but I would never, ever say to him before the game, “Go positively kill ’em out there!”. May 17, 2014 at 16:18
  • @JanusBahsJacquet You didn't look up the meaning did you? He positively killed 'em out there and *Go positively kill 'em out there" have a world of difference in them. Both mean something entirely different.
    – Invoker
    May 17, 2014 at 16:22
  • In that case, please explain what yours is supposed to mean, as well as which of the two main senses of positively fits your meaning. May 17, 2014 at 16:43

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