Is the following sentence in present or future tense?

I will now begin.

I was writing a speech, at the end of which I say: "My friend Steve* will now talk to you about..."

It seemed to me at first that it should be present, because of its usage of the word "now", but it makes more sense for it to be in the future (I will begin).

  • 3
    I know you think that's a meaningful binary question, but it really isn't: that's a modal auxiliary, which means the real question is whether it’s in the epistemic mode or in the deontic one. As for tense, that’s a lesser matter that doesn’t much apply here, but if you want to know, then here’s a hint... if you’ll please figure out the tense of would in “He said that he would now begin” then you’ll know the corresponding answer to your own question.
    – tchrist
    Aug 14, 2017 at 1:30
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    The only 'tensed' verb in your example is "will", which is present tense.
    – BillJ
    Aug 14, 2017 at 5:50
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    The construction itself uses the modal verb will, which can refer to present time or to future time. You have provided no context to determine which of these is in effect. The word now does not have to mean and rarely does mean, right this very second. As for tense, English doesn't have a future tense, just more than dozen ways of referring to future time. Aug 14, 2017 at 12:43
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    I will now talk about turtles is something that happens in the future, albeit the immediate future. I now talk about turtles is interpreted as habitual; these days I tend to talk about turtles. I am now talking about turtles is present; something that is currently going on at this very moment. Aug 14, 2017 at 13:03
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    Tense does not always correspond to the time when something happens. This is true for English as well as other languages (some languages with a genuine future tense conjugation often use the present tense to talk about future time). "Now" in this context refers to the immediate future. English can use several constructions to talk about the immediate future. The construction will now talk is the present tense but, in this context, it's referring to immediate future time. Aug 14, 2017 at 13:21

1 Answer 1


In English, there's a word that indicates the immediate past: just. If you want to say that you stopped talking about turtles very recently, you would say

I just talked about turtles.

You can't say I now talked about turtles, although I just now talked about turtles is fine.

There is no corresponding common word for the immediate future, so we use now combined with will or am going to instead. So if you want to say you will start talking about turtles very soon, you say

I will now talk about turtles.

The present tense constructions in English don't work for this:

I am now talking about turtles,

would imply that you have already started talking about turtles, and

I now talk about turtles,

would probably be interpreted as habitual—these days I tend to talk about turtles.

  • 1
    I like your answer; it’s helped the asker, too, given that “accepted” checkmark. I wonder if the suggested choice of “use present tense” could be clearer. Clair makes a good point commenting how even languages with future-tense verb inflections can still use present tense for future events. Indeed translating to a Romance language—even one w/both periphrastic & inflected futures—I’d more likely use a simple present here (FR Et maintenant je commence; ES Y ya comienzo; PT E já começo) than even a periphrastic “I'm going to…” future—let alone an inflected one like commencerai, comenzaré.
    – tchrist
    Aug 14, 2017 at 14:25

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