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Future: other expressions to talk about the future

We use a number of expressions with main verb be when we refer to the future, especially the immediate future.

Be about to

We use be about to + base form of the verb to refer to things that we expect to happen very soon. We often use it with just, for emphasis:

The ferry is about to leave.

The driver is about to collect them. Shall I phone to stop him?

We’re just about to set off for a walk. Do you want to come?

Warning:

With time expressions, we don’t use be about to, we use the present simple:

Hurry up, please! The coach is about to leave!

Hurry up, please! The coach leaves in five minutes!

Not: The coach is about to leave in five minutes!

Be on the point of

We can also use be on the point of + -ing form to refer to things that we expect to happen very soon. Be on the point of is similar to be just about to:

I was on the point of leaving my job but then I got promoted so I changed my mind.

Be due to

We use be due to + base form of the verb to talk about things that are scheduled:

The visitors are due to arrive at the factory at 10:30.

Be to

Be to + base form of the verb has a number of meanings. It is rather formal.

Obligations

Be to refers to what someone is obliged or required to do. We also use it to refer to formal decisions:

[referring to an obligation]

If I am not to tell anyone, then that’s simply not fair.

[making decisions at a business meeting]

So, George is to contact the Stockholm office, and Patricia is to speak to the Elsico representative. Agreed?

Commands and instructions

We can also use be to when we give someone commands or instructions:

You are to report to the head office by 8.30 am.

She’s not to be late. OK?

Headlines

Be to is common in newspaper headlines to refer to events which have been fixed or decided. We don’t always use the verb:

Prime Minister to announce emergency plan on climate change. (a headline – used without a verb) (Full form: The Prime Minister is to announce an emergency plan on climate change.)

(“Future: other expressions to talk about the future” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)

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