I passed a TEFL certificate test, and there was a sentence:

"We are going to stay with our family in Aberdeen."

And I had to choose whether it was "Future SIMPLE with "going to"" or "Present Continuous used as a future form", I chose the latter, as it was the closest ( the best answer would have been ""be going to" as a future tense/form (not SIMPLE)". And it says this is the wrong answer. The comment I got from them is this:

am/are/is + going + infinitive of main verb

(NB: 'I am going to Paris' is present continuous as a future form with 'going' used as the main verb; it's not future simple with 'going to' as long as 'Paris' is not a verb).

It's not Future Simple, Future simple is about will and shall. There's a reason we call all those tenses "Simple", isn't there?

  • The comment you got was not very helpful and referring to the future with going to as the Future Simple is unusual. But using the present continuous for future arrangements results in: "We are staying with our family in Aberdeen" so your answer was wrong. But I can see why you were confused.
    – Shoe
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 17:46
  • 1
    There is no concensus concerning terminology, even concerning the issue regarding what constitutes a 'tense', among grammarians. I believe the usual stance on ELU is that two tenses exist in English, I sing (present simple) and I sang (past simple). There are various constructions (as in We are going to sing) enabling temporal refinement. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


I am going to Paris' is present continuous as a future form with 'going' used as the main verb; it's not future simple with 'going to' as long as 'Paris' is not a verb).

This seems like gobbledegook to me. The more I read it, the less it makes sense.

My take on this

"I am going to Paris" can either A. be present continuous or B. it can be a prediction (there is no formal future tense in English).


Police officer: Where are you going? (request to know your current activity)

You: I am going to Paris. (describing your current activity in the present)


Friend: Where are you going for Summer next year? (request for future plans)

You: I am going to Paris. (prediction of your future activities)


"We are going to stay with our family in Aberdeen."

I agree with your decision that it is "Present Continuous used as a future form".


The key is whether “going” is used in the sense of travelling.

If it is (as in your “going to Paris” example), then it falls under your ‘Continuous as Future’ category.

If it isn’t, then “(be) going to” is used a synonym for “will” or “shall”. They are not taking about motion - they are stating an intention. In that case, it falls under the same category as “will” and “shall”, namely, ‘Future Simple’.


According to this source the form "going to" is really a form of the future simple, this latter being called so, apparently, in opposition to the future continuous.

It is a construction for expressing the future that has been used in the naming of an aspect of the future as the going to future (Wikipedia) as opposed to the will future. The form is the going to form.

The going-to future is a grammatical construction used in English to refer to various types of future occurrences. It is made using appropriate forms of the expression to be going to.[1] It is an alternative to other ways of referring to the future in English, such as the future construction formed with will (or shall) – in some contexts the different constructions are interchangeable, while in others they carry somewhat different implications.

There is no clear delineation between contexts where going to is used and those where other forms of future expression (such as the will/shall future, or the ordinary present tense) are used. Different forms are often interchangeable. Some general points of usage are listed below.

  • The going-to future is relatively informal;
  • The going-to form sometimes indicates imminence, but sometimes does not; and it sometimes indicates intention, but sometimes does not (compare "It's going to rain", which expresses imminence but not intention, and "I'm going to visit Paris someday", which expresses intention but not imminence).
  • The "will" future is often used for announcing a decision at the time when it is made, while going to is more likely for a plan already in existence: compare "All right, I'll help her" and "Yes, I'm going to help her".
    The will future is used more often than going to in conditional sentences of the "first conditional" type: "If it rains, you'll get wet" (although going to is also sometimes found in such sentences).
  • In some contexts the going-to form can express unconditionality while the will form expresses conditionality ("Don't sit on that rock, it's going to fall" means it's going to fall regardless of what you do, while "Don't sit on that rock, it will fall" means that it will fall conditional on your sitting on it). But in some contexts (particularly with "future in the past") the reverse can be true ("After 1962 ended, I would be a star" unconditionally describes what subsequently did happen, while "After 1962 ended, I was going to be a star" describes only intention).
  • Your "source" is not authoritative and smells of spam. It is an ESL website. Apart from that,Wikipedia is not well accepted here. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 21:47
  • @Cascabel I'll have to take your word for those assertions about spam and rotten websites, I can't see the beginning of any of that. There are thousands of sources and if they provide a fair amount of material it is quite impossible for me to decide whether they are trusworthy or not. More surprising is your incriminating Wikipedia: a research on this site provides nearly 11 000 hits, which amounts approximately to one reference to Wikipedia for every 10 questions put to the site; that doesn't add up. Also, the present material obtained from Wikepedia corresponds to what I think I know.
    – LPH
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 0:46
  • 4
    Since there is no future tense in English, any website claiming that something is "future simple" is already selling nonsense. Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 4:01
  • @JohnLawler If they were the only source to do that your conclusion would be acceptable, but that is not the case. In the words of CGEL, "some grammarians have argued for a third, 'future tense', maintaining that English realizes this tense by the use of an auxiliary verb construction"; after all the present perfect does not exist without an auxiliary construction and there is no obvious reason for denying such a possibility to the future; the fact that most if not all European languages have a future realized by verb inflection dictates no such necessity in the case of a particular (1/3)
    – LPH
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 9:31
  • @ohnLawler language. Therefore, there is a case for talking about an English future tense. Of course, this should be made clear to the learner. I must say that CGEL does not recognize this formal category; in their words, "[they] prefer to follow those grammarians who have treated tense strictly as a category realized by verb inflection". I can't, myself, truly argue that lining up the nomenclature with the vastly dominant ontological practice is the way ahead, but as long as the grammatical establishment hasn't found a way out of this undecided question (2/3)
    – LPH
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 9:32

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