Will vs Going To
Knowing the difference between when to use ‘will’ and when to use ‘going to’ can be quite confusing for English learners.
Most students overuse ‘will’ when talking about the future. After reading this article and doing our exercises, knowing when to use these two tenses should become a lot clearer.
The main thing to bear in mind when deciding between the two is when the decision was made.
If the decision was made before the time of speaking, we use ‘going to’. If the decision is made in the moment, we use ‘will’.
Here is a good example to make this clear.
The first conversation:
Sarah: Let’s have a dinner party on Friday.
Mark: Great idea, I’ll tell my wife tonight.
Mark: Also, I’ll bring some desert and drinks.
The second conversation:
Mark: We’re going to have a dinner party on Friday at Sarah’s house.
Caroline: Sounds great, who’s going to cook?
Mark: Sarah is going to cook and we’re going to bring the desert and drinks. It should be a lot of fun.
In the above conversations, ‘will’ was used when Sarah and Mark were making decisions about the future in the moment of speaking.
In the second conversation ‘going to’ was used because the decisions about the dinner party were made in the past. Now we’re going to explore in more detail when ‘will’ and ‘going to’ are used.
- Will you pass me the salt?
- Will you make me a cup of coffee?
- Will you help me with my homework?
- Will you turn on the AC?
We can also use the modal verbs ‘can’, ‘could’ and ‘would’ in these examples.
- It’s cold in here. –> I’ll turn the heating on.
- I’m thirsty. –> I’ll make you a cup of coffee.
- I need help with my homework. –> I’ll help you.
- (In a hotel) I’ll help you with those bags.
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- I promise I’ll finish the report by tomorrow.
- I promise I’ll pay you back next week (after lending some money).
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- I’ll give you a call when I arrive.
- We’ll cook inside if it rains on Saturday.
The first conditional is used for real future events.
Going to is used when you have intentions and plans. The plans and intentions were there before the time of speaking. Here are some examples to make it clearer.
- PERSON A – What are you going to do tomorrow?
- PERSON B – I’m going to finish the sales report and then I’m going to go to the cinema.
- I’m going to go travelling after graduating.
- PERSON A – Are you going to watch the game on Saturday.
- PERSON B – Yeah, but I’m not sure where I’m going to watch it.
When we are asking someone about their plans for the weekend/summer/vacation we tend to use ‘going to’. This is because most people have the intention of doing something or have a plan.
‘Will’ and ‘going to” are also used when we made predictions about the future. Generally speaking there is little difference between the two:
- I think Manchester United will win the league.
- I think Manchester United are going to win the league.
- It’ll be a great party.
- It’s going to be a great party.
However, when a prediction is based on some evidence that you can see, feel or hear then you have to use going to:
- The sky is so dark, it’s going to rain.
- My stomach really hurts, I think I’m going to be sick.
Notice the use of ‘gonna’ which is using relaxed pronunciation instead of the whole “going to” form. Here is a selection of the lyrics:
Things are gonna change,
Gonna drink less beer
And start all over again
Gonna pull up my socks
Gonna clean my shower
Not gonna live by the clock
But get up at a decent hour
Gonna read more books
Gonna keep up with the news
Gonna learn how to cook
And spend less money on shoes
Pay my bills on time
File my mail away, everyday
Only drink the finest wine
And call my Gran every Sunday”