19

What's the difference between:

I will be eating cakes tomorrow.
I will eat cakes tomorrow.

And, when should I use the first form?

13

Both of these refer to the future, and both are correct and can be used in any situation. However, there is a slight difference between "will be" and "will".

The simple form is as it suggests referring simply to what happens next but the continuous indicates or suggests a picture of activity in the future.

For example,:

I will walk home.

and

I will be walking home.

Both refer to walking home in the future, but the first statement is used when referring to the next thing you are going to do i.e. during after school, while the second statement can be used anytime from the day before to just before going to school.

Also, there are instances when one or the other can not be used. For example,

I will be good.

but not

*I will good.

The second example is incorrect
Because "will" is only a modal verb, it needs another verb, otherwise the sentence is incomplete. There are instances when "will be" has to be used, and "will" can't be used.

  • Erm, please clarify on your last example. I always thought, that I will be good is a will do template from OP's question, and I will good is incorrect. Am I wrong? – Philoto Jun 2 '11 at 8:02
  • You are right, the last example is showing "will" can't be used in this instance. It would be incorrect. – Thursagen Jun 2 '11 at 8:21
  • The distinction arises because "good" is a noun. The "will <verb?" construction won't work for nouns. – Christi Jun 2 '11 at 8:45
  • 2
    @third idiot Yes, I blame lack of coffee. – Christi Jun 2 '11 at 9:32
  • 1
    "I will good" is technically a valid sentence if the other will definition and the noun good is used. – tyjkenn Oct 27 '12 at 0:46
14

"I will eat cakes" is more about the act; "I will be eating cakes" is more about being in the state of "eating cakes". Consider "I will drive home tomorrow" (yay, I'm going home) versus "I will be driving home tomorrow" (so that would be a bad time for you to call me on my cell phone).

  • 1
    Note that the common African-American dialect has a version of be that works just like this pair for present tense ("he be eating cakes" vs. "he is eating cakes"). The two forms have the same distinction you mention. I just love that construction, but sadly can't use it when speaking outside that community. – T.E.D. Jun 2 '11 at 13:35
  • @Monica, So who is right? Doesn't this contradict Thursagen's answer? Do you have sources for this? – Pacerier Apr 5 '16 at 16:31
  • @Pacerier I don't have sources (neither does that answer). I disagree with this from that answer: "Both refer to walking home in the future, but the first statement is used when referring to the next thing you are going to do". There is no requirement that the simple form be the next action. "I will drive to my parents' house so they can borrow my car. I will walk home." Lots of stuff might happen before "I will walk home". It's just a statement about a future action; it needn't be bound to any other statements. – Monica Cellio Apr 5 '16 at 17:47
  • @T.E.D., you're saying "he be eating cakes" = "he is eating cakes"? – Pacerier Oct 30 '18 at 10:36
  • @Pacerier - It's more like "he's always eating cakes." or "He's the kind of guy who eats cakes". It looks like grammarians call this a "habitual aspect". – T.E.D. Oct 30 '18 at 13:20
9

The first form is used when it is relevant that the action will occur at the same time as some other action. For example:

Don't bother calling after 9; I'll be sleeping.

  • 3
    Shouldn't that be "I'll be asleep"??? – teylyn Jun 2 '11 at 10:11
  • 2
    @teylyn: "I'll be sleeping" is fine. It sems to be almost identical here. – Mitch Jun 2 '11 at 13:28
3

There's an old American children's song that might help to highlight the distinction: "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain".

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes, (when she comes).

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes, (when she comes).

She'll be coming 'round the mountain, she'll be coming 'round the mountain,

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes, (when she comes).

And the best part? We'll be havin' chicken and dumplings.

  • Please demonstrate the distinction. And are you talking about Tursagen's distinction or Monica's distinction? – Pacerier Apr 5 '16 at 16:35

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