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The following sentences sound right to me:

The package arrives tomorrow. (The package is going to arrive tomorrow)

We leave for Hawaii tomorrow. (We are going to leave for Hawaii tomorrow)

But the following sound wrong to me:

We watch The Avengers tomorrow. (We are going to watch The Avengers tomorrow)

He likes it tomorrow. (He is going to like it tomorrow)

The house is demolished next week. (The house is going to be demolished next week)

I don't understand why the second group sounds wrong. Is it because there is an object or adjective?

Is there a rule for when the present simple could be changed to indicate future time with only an adverb or preposition phrase?

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    I think "We watch the Avengers tomorrow" is fine, but I agree with the rest of your evaluations. – Peter Shor Jan 16 '16 at 3:16
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    I've got no problem with any of your sentences, although "He likes it tomorrow" is odd, semantically, to start with and so is the reformulation. But I can easily see myself saying, "We're gonna watch that tomorrow" and "That house is gonna be demolished tomorrow" – Jim Jan 16 '16 at 4:29
  • Cross-posted to ELL: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/78917/… – GoDucks Jan 16 '16 at 4:52
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    @Jim I think the OP is asking about the present simple construction sentences, the going to ones are glosses of the intended meaning - I think. – Araucaria Jan 16 '16 at 12:11
  • I'm with Peter Shor. I think "We watch the Avengers tomorrow" is fine. I also can imagine situations where "The house is demolished next week" would work, but admittedly, the alternate present tense "The house gets demolished next week" would be more idiomatic. "He likes it tomorrow" sounds weird because the future tense "He will like it tomorrow" sounds equally weird. – Benjamin Harman Jan 16 '16 at 12:29
7

The package arrives tomorrow.

We leave for Hawaii tomorrow.

We often use the present simple for scheduled events, events that appear on timetables, itineraries and calendars. In other words we use it for events whose occurrence is viewed as already firmly fixed for a specific time or date. This is why the sentences above are fine. When we use the present simple like this the time of the scheduled event is seen as important. In contrast,the following sentences sound a bit odd:

We watch The Avengers tomorrow.

He likes it tomorrow.

The house is demolished next week.

The reason for this is that watching a telly programme hardly sounds like a serious scheduled event. It's more like a loose intention, and we don't get the feeling that this has been 'timetabled' into the week. Similarly in the he likes it sentence, liking something is rarely if ever something that we can schedule. The last sentence also sounds a bit odd outside of a suitable context.

However, if we can provide a suitable context to show that these things have been scheduled, the sentences should sound much better:

  • A: We have just two more television programmes to look at in our gender and media class before we move on to the graphic novels.
  • B: Are we watching The Avengers today then?
  • A: No, we watch The Avengers tomorrow. Breaking Bad is next week and then that's it.

So, for the liking sentence we probably need someone insincere or devious who is going to schedule whether they appear to like something tomorrow. Ah, a politician, that should do it:

  • A: So tomorrow we release a statement expressing Cameron's disapproval of the project?
  • B: No, tomorrow he likes it. On Wednesday we leak the information that it was funded with money from Gigburton. On Thursday morning we release the statement expressing Cameron's scathing disapproval.

Lastly, the house scenario shouldn't be too hard:

  • So the cinema is set for demolition this Thursday; the house is demolished next week, and we lay the foundations for the new arcade after the Christmas break.

Conclusion

We can use the present simple for timetabled events in the future.

  • I dunno about this answer...I had trouble understanding it. – michael_timofeev Jan 16 '16 at 12:51
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Grammatically-speaking there is nothing wrong with the sentences you gave. For example, you could say "I will like it yesterday." You cannot say "I are will like it." or "I might am liking it." Those sentences break grammatical rules relating to modals and auxiliary verbs.

The reason the sentences sound wrong is that the verbs that you give are usually used in conjunction with certain grammar and also common ideas, and when used out of those normal situations, your brain tells you something is wrong. This was discussed in a recent post about the sentence "I build a house next to you." which sounds wrong. Most English speakers would challenge that sentence and say "No, it's sounds better to say "I am building a house next to you.""

Many verbs have a built in aspect to them. For example, sneeze is a "sudden" kind of verb. Sneeze is not a process that lasts for a while. Sure, you can feel a sneeze building up but the actual sneeze is a sudden action, like an explosion. "Build," on the other hand, is a "process" kind of verb so when you try to use it outside of that, your brain tells you something is wrong.

"Eat" is a verb (like many others) that can have different aspects. To eat a grape is not the same as to eat a pizza. One takes significantly longer to do.

This is a fascinating area of study / interest. There are many sentences that people would argue over. For example, is it OK to say "The magician built a car for us with the wave of his magic wand."? Well, some would say, sure, others would say "no" because "build" isn't something that can happen "with the wave of a wand." So, the "no" people would try to substitute a "better word" or phrase, for example "made appear" or "materialized" or "manifested."

This topic frequently arises with using the present progressive and many stative verbs such as "love" "hate" "like" "have" or "own." many ESL students don;t share the same logic bank that a native English speaker has so will say sentences using verbs in the "wrong way." In the same way, English speakers learning a foreign language will use verbs in other languages "the wrong way." and encounter meaning difficulty.

As far as "rules" go, you just add "tomorrow" "today" "yesterday" or a prepositional phrase to change the meaning. "I leave." is fine but if someone requires more info, it makes sense to say "tomorrow" or "In an hour." (or some such phrase.) not "yesterday" or "in 500 years." Adding "right now" to "I leave" doesn't quite make sense, although there is nothing wrong with the grammar.

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    @BillJ there's a difference between grammar and semantics / meaning. One can say grammatical sentences that don't have meaning. – michael_timofeev Jan 16 '16 at 9:54
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    @BillJ For example, "I speak blue paint." is nonsense but there is nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence. It follows SVO, the verb agrees with its subject. – michael_timofeev Jan 16 '16 at 9:55
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    @BillJ how is it ungrammatical? – michael_timofeev Jan 16 '16 at 9:56
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    @BillJ I'm not. Honestly. Perhaps we are talking about different systems. I'm not familiar with the word license in that way. Honestly. – michael_timofeev Jan 16 '16 at 10:04
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    @BillJ I think I could conjure up a time-travel scenario, where I'm predicting whether I will like some specific thing when we go back to yesterday (tomorrow), perhaps. (-or perhaps not). – Araucaria Jan 16 '16 at 12:16
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I don't know any rules, so bear with me (and either take my word for it or wait for a better answer):

The present can stand in for the future if you make it sound definitive: like, it's a done deal.

Your first two examples sound like a done deal. The other three do not. However, if you tweak them a little, forcing them to sound like a done deal, it might just do the trick:

We're watching The Avengers tomorrow.

Tomorrow is when he finally likes it.

The house gets demolished next week.

  • Your downvotes are much appreciated. – Ricky Jan 16 '16 at 7:58
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    It's a done deal is a present tense sentence, not future. – Peter Shor Jan 16 '16 at 13:04

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