English Grammar Course Unit 8: Will or going to ?

Why should you study this unit?

We have been talking about using will to describe future events or to predict future events. But, if there is something about the present that is indicative of the future, we would use going to.  So if you find that your favorite cricket team is playing really well, you would very excitedly say ‘ What a shot that was. They’re going to win.’

This unit will help you learn about more such situations where we use going to.

A. Talking about future actions

We use both will and going to to talk about our future actions, but there is a clear difference. Study this example situation:

Lisa’s bicycle has a flat tire. She tells her father.

  • Lisa: My bicycle has a flat tire. Can you fix it for me?
  • Father: Okay, but I can’t do it now. I’ll fix it tomorrow.

Will: We use will when we decide to do something at the time of speaking. The speaker has not decided before. Before Lisa told her father, he didn’t know about the flat tire.

Later, Lisa’s mother speaks to her husband.

  • Mother: Can you fix Lisa’s bicycle? It has a flat tire.
  • Father: Yes, I know. She told me. I’m going to fix it tomorrow.

Going to: We use going to when we have already decided to do something. Lisa’s father had already decided to fix the bicycle before his wife spoke to him.

Here is another example:
Tom is cooking when he suddenly discovers that there isn’t any salt:

  • Tom: Rita, we don’t have any salt.
  • Rita: Oh, we don’t? I’ll get some from the store. (she decides at the time of speaking)

Before going out, Rita says to George:
Rita: I’m going to get some salt from the store (she has already decided). Can I get you anything, George?

B. Saying what will happen (predicting future happenings)

We use both will and going to to say what we think will happen in the future:

  • Do you think Sunita will get the job?
  • Oh no! It’s already 4:00. We‘re going to be late.

We use going to (not will) when there is something in the present situation that shows what will happen in the future (especially the near future). The speaker feels sure about what will happen because of the situation now (see also section d of  Unit 5):

  • Look at those black clouds. It‘s going to rain. (the clouds are there now)
  • I feel terrible. I think I‘m going to be sick. (I feel terrible now)

Do not use will in situations like the ones discussed above.

In other situations, use will (see also Unit 7):
 Mary will probably arrive at about 8 o’clock.
 I think George will like the present you bought for him.

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