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I've been trying to find an answer to a question that has been bugging me for quite some time now: If I have to express future in an action already planned and arranged can I use both I will + infinitive and the present continuous? If yes, is there any differences in the use of one form vs the other?

Examples:
1. I'm seeing the doctor at 5 pm vs I will see the doctor at 5 pm.
2. The meeting is taking place on the 5th of June vs The meeting will take place on the 5th of June.

I'm asking this because I was taught that in such instances you MUST use the present continuous while using the will+infinitive form is incorrect (even though I see many instances of the latter on the internet).

1

You have been taught an incorrect distinction.

All the constructions used for future events—will VERBinf, BE going to VERBinf, BE VERBpr.ppl, will be VERBpr.ppl, BE going to be VERBpr.ppl, BE to VERBinf and even VERBfin—are practically equivalent.

There are no doubt statistical preferences in different situations: BE to VERBinf tends to be used more often with situations involving some sort of obligation, will VERBinf tends to be used more often with earnest promises, VERBfin tends to be used with situations when the speaker is consulting a calendar or engagement book (and with translations of Richelieu’s instructions from The Three Musketeers!), and so forth.

But none of these tendencies rises to the level of a grammatical “rule”.

  • 1
    I agree with your answer here but I find all these symbols take a lot of translating. – Xanne May 25 '17 at 2:10
  • I appreciate the simplicity and need to be brief, but aesthetically speaking, the numerous instances of VERB look bewildering and distracting (for me). Why not write: Will+Verb, Be+Going to+Verb, Be+Present Participle etc.? – Mari-Lou A May 27 '17 at 5:44
-1

I think your teacher is quite correct. The examples you showed indicate the meeting or the appointment with the doctor were arranged in advance, with certain date and time. Therefore, I think the present continuous is more suitable. Will+Verb is usually related to promises or intention thought of at the moment of speaking.

  • 1
    The present continuous is "more suitable" when we want to indicate that the speaker is committed to the idea that the plan will take place. Otherwise, 'future will' is okay. For examples, see my answer. – green_ideas May 25 '17 at 2:20
-2

Each of the four sentences is grammatical. But there is a difference in meaning between future will and the progressive futurate. (The progressive futurate is the use of the "present progressive" for the future.) You can not use the progressive futurate construction in all instances.

The progressive futurate, according to present theory, means both

(a) the existence of a current plan (we use "plan" for lack of a better word)
and
(b) the speaker is committed to the expectation that the plan will happen.

So, both

1 The meeting will take place on the 5th of June.

and

2 The meeting is taking place on the 5th of June.

are grammatical. Thus, you can use will.

However, in #2 (which uses the progressive futurate) the speaker is committed to the expectation that the plan will happen or be carried out. To see the difference, consider

1b The meeting will take place on the 5th of June but it might not.

This is fine. However,

2b *The meeting is taking place on the 5th of June but it might not.

is not grammatical.

Consider the paraphrase

2c There is a plan for the meeting to take place on the 5th of June, but it might not.

This is fine, but it shows that the progressive futurate itself encodes more than the mere existence of a plan.

Likewise,

3b *I'm seeing the doctor at 5 pm but I might not.

is not grammatical, whereas

3a I will see the doctor at 5 pm but I might not.

is fine.

The classical illustration of this concept is

4 The Red Sox will play the Yankees tomorrow but they might not.

and

5 *The Red Sox are playing the Yankees tomorrow but they might not.

as compared to

6 There is a plan for the Red Sox to play the Yankees tomorrow but they might not.

Number 5 is ungrammatical.

See The Plan’s the Thing: Deconstructing Futurate Meanings (Bridget Copley, Linguistic Inquiry 39(2):261-274, April 2008)(link), who gives a bibliography of studies on the futurate. And also May 2015's Unifying Concurrent and Futurate Progressives by Brandon Robert Beamer (pdf).

  • 2
    Hmm ... I don't accept your 1b, 3a and 4 as "grammatical", and I don't see that Copley does either...Although I sympathize with those linguists who focus on utterances at the margin of acceptability--the linguistic equivalent of the engineer's "testing to destruction"--I think many of the utterances they put forward are also at the margin of utterability--they're not things anybody would actually say. And it seems to me these very fine distinctions in the varieties of future reference are matters of the pragmatic contexts in which they're uttered, not meanings inherent in the constructions. – StoneyB May 25 '17 at 14:07
  • Your downvotes are welcome but you are downvoting not my ideas but that of the latest scholarly research on the progressive futurate. Or perhaps I've presented the ideas poorly. Yet, ultimately, I do think that the OP is more interested in research by vetted scholars and not private opinions. – green_ideas May 25 '17 at 15:26
  • Thanks a lot Clare and Stoney B for your contribution. I get your point Clare, but in the case of a planned meeting or event how could someone organizing it not be committed with the expectation that event/meeting will be carried out. In this case he/she would be compelled to use the progressive futurate...you know what I mean? – Erik May 25 '17 at 22:33
  • People make plans for things like the zombie apocalypse all the time; I doubt most of them think it's actually something that will happen. The exact nature of a 'plan'/arrangement is hard to pin down: in The sun is rising at 6:22 tomorrow, whose plan is that? Anyway, if you're asking if future will is ungrammatical in your sentences, it's not. – green_ideas May 26 '17 at 5:36
  • Your judgements of both what is and what is not grammatical here are made up by you. – Araucaria May 29 '17 at 0:38

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