I was reading an article about changes in the English language, and I stumbled upon an example the author used to make an argument, referring to these subtleties that English native speakers learn when they are kids, but to me, they all sound the same, haha

So, colloquially, what are the differences between the expressions

  • I turn 31 tomorrow
  • I’m going to turn 31 tomorrow
  • I’ll turn 31 tomorrow

The context of the comparison is this

Somehow, by about the age of 6, we all master the subtleties of how to use the versus a; what the difference is between I turn 31 tomorrow, I’m going to turn 31 tomorrow, and I’ll turn 31 tomorrow; and much, much more–but have to be bopped on the head about Billy and me went to the store.

And the full article is here: Call Them What They Wants By John McWhorter

  • 2
    And ... what has your research found. Edit your finding into your question please.
    – lbf
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 13:12
  • They all mean the same. I'd just use them in different contexts. I can't think of any example contexts off the top of my head though.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 13:57
  • 1
    He means that us native speakers have all learned to say them, and to understand them when used, and our usage passes as normal. There doesn't hafta be a rule about meaning determining usage; it could just as easily be social, and different in different contexts. The point is that native speakers are comfortable with the variation; non-native speakers have to be taught each of these constructions, and are often under the impression that if there's a different form, there must be a different meaning. This is the genesis of most of the questions we receive here at ELU.SE. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 15:14
  • Whichever turns you on.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


As I'm guessing you already know, the present tense can refer to the future.
English present tense

Doing a Google search of the variations, I get:

"I'm going to turn 18 tomorrow" = 9 results
"I'll turn 18 tomorrow" = 122 results
"I turn 18 tomorrow" = 8,480 results

There's another one I would tend to use:

"I'm turning 18 tomorrow." = 3,600 results

As to what the differences are, well I think any differences, other than that they use different words and sound different, are unremarkable or even non-existent. There are the very slightest of differences between "will" and "going to", and the following links try to explain some of them.

Will vs going
Will vs going to
Check out this chart
These aren't hard and fast rules.

The nuances among each version mentioned in the The Atlantic article may be referring to nuances of meaning, in which case I don't consciously know what they are, or it could simply be referring to the nuances of speaking different words and the resultant effect it has on a listener.

I really do think they all mean the same thing, and if there are any nuances among them, I'm not really aware of what they are.


They are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

However in BrE it’s more idiomatic to say ‘I’ll be 31 tomorrow’.

The ‘turning’ thing is American English, I think.

Maybe others can comment on that.

  • I tried using Google NGram Viewer to see if "turning" was more of an American thing, but I didn't get any results for any of the phrases. I then tried looking at this particular use of "to turn" in AmE and BrE dictionaries, seeing in which place the appropriate definition came, assuming that the earlier it came in the list of definitions, the more common this use was. This didn't really reveal much to me.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 1:39

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