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Do in future and in the future imply different meanings? If so, using which one is grammatically correct?

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  • 7
    Can you give some examples for context?
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 26, 2010 at 11:12
  • Maybe Hamid is asking about the difference between "in future" and "in the future"?
    – delete
    Aug 26, 2010 at 13:08
  • @Shinto Yes, exactly, that. Sorry for the mistake.
    – Mysterion
    Aug 26, 2010 at 13:49
  • 4
    Can you give sentences? If the sentence is "Be careful in future", then I would tell you that the sentence was just a note (or written by a non-native speaker) and should normally have "the" in front of it. If the sentence is "I hope to see you again in future meetings", then I would tell you that "future" is being used as an adjective. Or, maybe there is some context where "in future" would be used that I am not thinking of.
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 26, 2010 at 14:02
  • 1
    In future just sounds like bad grammar.
    – Incognito
    Aug 26, 2010 at 15:38

8 Answers 8

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He would be more careful in future.
They plan on getting married in the near future.

In the first sentence, "in future" means "from now on"; the NOAD says its use is chiefly British.
In the second sentence, "in the future" means "the time or a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing."

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  • 6
    I'd say "exclusively British." I don't believe I've ever heard it from Americans. Aug 26, 2011 at 19:25
  • What is the origin of the expression "in future"? It does sound odd. Could it be an ellipsis of some specified or implied noun, as in "in future events" or "in future times"?
    – Pifagor
    Oct 26, 2015 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Pifagor: it is an adverbially phrase. I doubt it is short for anything. It is clearly Latinate: Latin has no articles (the, a, an) so a preposition followed by a noun is common (yuni.com/library/latin_3.html): e.g. "in loco parentis" (in place of the parent), an adverbially phrase (used in English/legal jargon). In fact, "in futuro" is the Latin equivalent to "in future", so American English added an unnecessary word. By the way, adjectives can be used as nouns (substantives): the young, the restless, the good, the bad, the ugly, without needing a noun to modify. May 6, 2016 at 19:06
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In future is commonly used in British English and is perfectly correct but has a different meaning than in the future.

In the future refers to an unspecified point in time, while in future means from now on.

It'a shame I missed you when I popped round to see you yesterday. I'll ring up beforehand in future.

In the future people will look back at the mobile phones we use today and laugh at their simplicity.

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In future is how they say it in the UK and India. It is common and considered normal.

In future, we will avoid water beds.

In American English, In future sounds strange; in the future is preferred or at least will get you fewer strange looks.

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  • 5
    "Less strange looks" or "fewer strange looks"? Or both? :-) Aug 27, 2010 at 8:07
  • also in Hong Kong; I imagine in other chiefly-UK-influenced Englishes as well Jan 8, 2017 at 14:58
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You may see "in future" when "future" is modifying a noun for which "in" is an appropriate preposition.

Fore example:

in future ______

  • shows
  • plays
  • events

and etc.

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7

In future is much more common in the UK and Ireland, as in In future, be more careful. In the US, we would tend to say In the future, be more careful. They mean exactly the same thing.

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  • 1
    +1.When Indian customer service representatives are taught American English, this is something that is part of the curriculum.
    – Manjima
    Sep 8, 2010 at 10:44
  • I learned about this difference from an Indian co-worker. May 6, 2016 at 19:09
3

Both forms are possible. "In future" is often used in reprimands:

In future please sign and date your letters

It is very general, talking about all times from now onwards. You can find many examples on Google (search for "in future please take care").

"In the future" is more neutral and more specific:

In the future I would like to go to Australia, but now I don't have enough money.

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  • 8
    I have never, ever, seen "In future" use as a reprimanding replacement for "in the future." If you can show a documented use, i will remove my down-vote, and delete my own answer. Aug 26, 2010 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Shinto: Clearly, I meant something that you did not invent. Aug 26, 2010 at 14:57
  • 3
    I think it's important to note that "in future please take care" is mostly a feature of written English. Sort of a telegraph ellipsis. No one would speak that sentence.
    – JoFrhwld
    Aug 26, 2010 at 16:29
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    @Shinto, I'm going to need some convincing that Google isn't giving you results from non-native speakers. Aug 26, 2010 at 16:31
  • 4
    in future would never be used in my area of America, the southwest. I've never heard or seen that. The only place I can imagine it is in text when letters are precious and limited.
    – Charlie
    Aug 26, 2010 at 19:14
1

The difference is only in whether future is a noun or an adjective.

In the future, please be more careful and Please be more careful in the future both use future as a noun.

In future activities, please be more careful uses future to modify the noun activities.

To my knowledge is it not correct to say in future in the place of in the future.

1

As far as grammar goes the difference between in future and in the future is contextual. One usually comes across phrases like in future endeavours or in future meets where future serves as an adjective. But if the reference is only to the times ahead,in the future would be correct and not in future. Thus,it would be correct to say: Be more careful in the future. or There will come a time in the future when there will be no petroleum left on the planet. and incorrect to go with the other. However,the spoken word in Britain and many former colonies where the influence of British English is enduring,it's not uncommon to come across simple notes that use in future. Perhaps they find it more easy on their ears.Nonetheless,grammatically wanting.

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  • Grammatically wanting? This isn't Latin we are discussing. English is a language of idiom. And idiomatically in future has a quite different meaning to in the future. Merging the two curtails articulation and dumbs down the language.
    – WS2
    Jan 9, 2017 at 1:08

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