A Guide To The French Future Tense
Once you have some basic vocabulary and the present tense as part of your repertoire, the next step will be learning the French future tense. You will want to be able to make plans with other people, discuss where you will be going and say what will happen next. When you are travelling you will want to be able to explain your plans using the future tense when asking for directions.
There are two different ways to talk about events that will take place in the future in French: le futur proche (the near future) and le futur simple (the future).
The Near Future – Le Futur Proche
The near future is the easier future tense to learn in French. It is used to speak about events that will take place right away or in the next few moments. The futur proche can be thought of as a formula that includes the subject, the verb “aller” and the infinitive.
Subject + Conjugated form of the verb “aller” + The infinitive
Here is an example that uses this structure: Elle va parler. – She is going to speak.
To use this tense first you need to know the verb “aller” (to go) in French.
Je vais – I go
Tu vas – You go
Il/Elle/On va – He/She goes
Nous allons – We go
Vous allez – You (plural) go
Ils/Elles ont- They go
Once you have the verb “aller”, which agrees with your subject, you will simply need the infinitive of the verb you are using. This is the initial form of the verb which ends in er, ir or re. Some examples of infinitives in French include:
Parler – To speak
Danser – To dance
Marcher – To walk
Sortir – To go out
Partir – To leave
Vendre – To sell
Prendre – To take
Now let’s put it all together to form sentences:
Il va marcher. – He is going to walk.
Nous allons sortir. – We are going to go out.
Ils vont parler. – They are going to talk.
As you can see, using those three steps makes the near future tense quick and easy to learn. One way to practice this new verb tense is to watch movies or YouTube videos and pause throughout your viewing. Predict what will happen next! Match your pronoun to the character in the show or video and use the verb “aller” and an infinitive to make your prediction.
The Simple Future – Le Futur Simple
The simple future is a bit more complex to learn and more sophisticated to use. It can be used to give a more formal tone than the near future. It is used to talk about events that occur later in the future; the next day, the next week, the next month, etc.
To use the simple future tense you will need to know the infinitives of verbs as well as the following endings:
Je – ai
Tu – as
Il/Elle/On – a
Nous – ons
Vous – ez
Ils/Elles – ont
To form the simple future, you add those endings to the infinitive of the verb. Here are a few sentences using this tense:
Je danserai. – I will dance.
Vous vendrez les autos. – You will sell the cars.
Elle sortira. – She will go out.
Que Sera, Sera (What Ever Will Be, Will Be)
The classic hit song “Que Sera, Sera” recorded by Doris Day features the use of the future tense in French. It was used as the theme song to The Doris Day Show in the ’60s and ‘70s.
The song is all about wondering what the future will be like, and the verses touch on different stages of life, from childhood to adulthood and falling in love. Part of the fun of mastering the French future tense is being able to ponder your future and discuss your predictions with friends and family.
A fun exercise to practice the future tense in French is to write about predictions for your life 20 years from now. Take a few moments to brainstorm 10-20 ideas of what you want your life to be like 20 years from now and then use the future tense to describe them in detail. You could write about your career aspirations, your home, your family, vacations you would like to go on as well as important life events.
French Future Tense Proverbs and Quotes
“Qui vivra verra”
– French proverb
“Qui vivra verra” is a widely used French proverb that uses the simple future tense. It translates to “He/she who lives, shall see” or “the future will tell”.
This saying is used when something is uncertain or an outcome can’t be predicted easily. It is a short and sweet quote you can use to show off your use of the French future tense. For example, when someone asks you to predict the ending of a story you can use this proverb to say that you are not sure what will happen next.
“L’amour, parfois, c’est aimer quelqu’un qui ne t’aimerai jamais”
– Boris Vian
Boris Vian was a famous French writer best known for his novels. He wrote under the pen name Bernon Sullivan and his books were highly controversial for the time they were written in (the 1940s). This quote features the future simple tense and means “Love, sometimes, is to love someone who will never love you”. It uses the future tense of the verb “aimer” (to like, or to love).
This quote provides a complex definition of love that is difficult to accept. It refers to unrequited love where one person loves another but he or she does not return the affection. It makes for a great topic for a novel for sure.
The Next Steps
Learning the French future tense will be one of your earlier lessons because it is considered one of the least complex tenses to learn. Once you have mastered the future tense, this would be a good time to start looking at more complex tenses like the past and the imperfect tenses.
Learning the future tense is also a good springboard for learning more descriptive nouns and adjectives because you will want to be able to describe your future aspirations, your plans and your hopes and dreams in French.
Rachel Graf has taught French classes for eight years after studying the French language in university and through French immersion programs in France and Quebec. She is also learning Spanish and German.