The Future Tense
The future tense is formed with shall/will + the bare infinitive:
shall + sing = shall sing.
will + dance = will dance.
Usually, shall/will + bare infinitive is used for the first person singular and plural while only will + bare infinitive is used for the other persons to express future tense:
- I/We/Shall (or will) sing.
- He/You/They/will sing.
Note that while I/We shall merely states a fact, I/We will expresses intention:
- I/We shall sing (the grammatically correct form).
- I/We will sing (i.e. I/ We intend to sing).
The future tense is used to express:
I) an action that the speaker or writer knows will occur in the future:
- Steve will visit us tomorrow.
II) the speaker’s opinions, assumptions, speculations about future:
(I am sure) he will come. He will (probably) spend three days with us. (I suppose) you will like it.
III) future habitual actions which we assume will occur:
- Women will bear children.
- Plants will grow.
- Politicians will make empty promises.
- Another Christmas will come.
IV) condition, when used with clauses of condition:
- If you starve the baby, it will cry.
- Work hard so that you will do well in your exams.
V) the future tense of stative verbs of the senses, of emotion, thinking, possessing, etc. which have no progressive form:
- will see you tomorrow.
- We shall know his name tonight.
VI) formal announcements of future plans, especially in newspapers and news broadcasts:
- The President will address the press next week.
VII) intention, when / or we is used with will:
- I/We will visit Lagos tomorrow (I/We intend to visit Lagos tomorrow).
Alternatively, the future with intention may be expressed with am/are + going to instead of will + infinitive. (e.g. I am going to visit Lagos tomorrow.)
The Future Continuous Tense
The future continuous is formed with: shall/will + be+ present participle:
shall + be + singing = shall be singing
will + be + reading = will be reading
The future continuous tense is used to express:
I) a future without intention (i.e. an action that will occur in a normal course of events. It does not express the writer/speaker’s deliberate or decided intention to perform the action):
- I’ll not be coming to the party.
- You’ll be taking your examination tomorrow.
II) polite inquiries:
Will you be coming to the party, sir?
Will your uncle be coming with you?
The Present Perfect Tense
The present perfect tense is formed with the present tense of have/has + the past participle of a verb:
(I/We) have + eaten: I/We have eaten.
(He/ She/It) has + eaten: He/She/It has eaten.
Note that while the past participle in regular verbs has the same form as the simple past, the past participle in irregular verbs vary:
- I have finished my work.
- She has run home.
The Perfect Tense is used to express
I) A recently (just) completed action:
- I have (just) returned.
- Ike has just gone out. (A few minutes ‘ago’ is implied.)
II) past actions whose time is neither given nor definite:
- I have had my breakfast.
- We have seen your brother.
III) actions that occurred in the past and still have connexion with the present or are likely to recur in the present:
- I have known Nigerian politicians. (It is still possible to know more of them.)
- Ufuoma has written a number of short stories. (He is still alive and can write more.)
IV) an action beginning in the past and still continuing up to the present time:
- I have taught in DELSU for thirteen years. (I am still teaching in DELSU.)
- He has been a student for seven years. (He is still a student.)
- We have been here since you left us. (We are still in the location.)
V) an action that started in the past and finished in the present:
- We haven’t seen Ngozi for ten years (but we can see her now).
- This bed has been out of use since Father died (but it is in use now).
NOTE: For and Since are often used with the present perfect as exemplified in the preceding. But note that while for refers to a period of time, since refers to a point in time: that is, for is used when the period of time is stated ( in minutes, hours, days, months, years); since is used when the starting point of the action is mentioned but its end point is assumed to be the time of speaking.
VI) the introductory statement of an action reported in newspapers or broadcasts before continuing to narrate the action in the simple past tense:
- Two condemned prisoners have escaped from the Warri prisons. One climbed over the prison wall and vanished while the other knocked down a wardress and took to his heels.
VI) thoughts, actions, ideas in letters:
- I have read your letter to me. I have carefully considered its contents and discovered that you have lost confidence in yourself.