Latest Articles

AlwaysSpanish is Retiring!

After a long awkward silence, here's something to break the ice – all over again. I can totally see why you should be upset to see no action from the Burro for over a month now, but trust me, your wait was all worth it. The news here is that your beloved Burro has just moved into a brand new home – one that's a whole lot richer, swankier, and easier to live in. I'm talking about PeppyBurro. That's the name of the new website! Isn't that cool? At least it tells you all about the Burro's pepped up temperament right off the bat, right? This post is not about Spanish-learning tricks (although I will drop in a couple out of habit, I guess) or grammar lessons. This one's all about our new home!

The Witchcraft Of Spanish Vocabulary

The very first step to conquering a language is to tame its vocabulary. And sadly, that's the part that puts off most novice learners because memorizing strange-sounding words is too darn boring! A never-ending chant of rote rehearsal and a nervous prayer can see you through an upcoming test, but the process just won't cut it if your goal is to actually use the language in the street. It's a mystery how this incredibly inefficient method has survived this long and still continues to be perpetuated by schools and educators around the world. So is there any nirvana around this assault of monotony in our miserable lives? Anything that could make learning foreign words less painful?

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Always Spanish has retired. Please visit the new blog at for all future articles.

Should You Really Learn The Spanish Future Tense?

The future tense is vanishing from the Spanish language; perhaps more rapidly than in the case of English, French, or German. Native Spanish speakers are often heard using the present tense while talking about future actions. This brings us to the question almost every learner starting out with Spanish faces at one point or the other: Should one really learn the Spanish future tense? The answer is almost a “no” if your aim is to just be conversant with the natives. Really? Does it mean we can just do away with the future tense conjugations and happily use the present tense instead in all situations? Well, let’s find out.

Future tense vanishing from English?

Well, yes, English does have a well defined future tense that continues to be prescribed by the grammar nazis throughout the world with no relaxation whatsoever. However, if you notice its usage in regular conversations, perhaps you’d understand that this tense is slowly and steadily vanishing from the scene. Really? Well, actually, English doesn’t even have a true future tense, per se!

The very first hint in this direction is the fact that there exists no verb form for the future tense in English. We rely, instead, on the word, “will,” which is just a modal prop used in combination with the present tense forms to describe future actions. There are, in fact, eight ways to express a future event in English:

  • PredictionShe will sleep
  • PredictionShe will have slept
  • PredictionShe will be sleeping
  • PredictionShe will have been sleeping
  • Factual assertionShe sleeps tomorrow
  • PlanShe is going to sleep tomorrow
  • PlanShe is sleeping soon
  • ResolutionShe shall sleep

If you study the above eight sentences closely, you’d easily notice that none of them uses any future tense verb form despite being future tense sentences themselves. They only at most use the modal props, “will” and “shall.” Some even go to the extent of completely doing away with these props and using the present tense alone to describe future actions.

The future of Spanish

The same evolutionary disappearance of the future verb forms that we observed in English above is also at work in Spanish, albeit, at a much larger scale. In Spanish this tense has all but vanished from day-to-day conversations – almost. So, at least for rookie learners, it won’t be much of a problem if they just shelve covering this tense until a later stage in their Spanish language program. But, can one completely do away with this tense? Not really. So, how does one know where it can be dispensed with and where it can’t?

Well, here’s the deal. You use the present tense in Spanish whenever discussing future plans or facts. Whenever you describe an event seen as obvious or factual, you would do well with the present tense. Often, when you are discussing a plan for future, you’d roll up your verb in a small ball with the equivalent of “going to” stuck to the present tense. We often do this in English too but the only difference is that it’s way more prevalent, and the norm, in Spanish. Here is an illustration:

Mañana se va (tomorrow, she leaves)

We often do this in English but we also use the “will” (tomorrow she will leave) form quite frequently. But in Spanish, this is the only form used if you are reasonably sure of the fact that she’ll leave tomorrow. If, however, you do use the future tense in Spanish, it won’t hurt but will alter the meaning in a very subtle way:

Mañana irá (she will leave tomorrow)

To your English ears, this sentence might ring no different from the one before. But to a native Spanish speaker, the last sentence sounds more like an assumption or a supposition that she might leave. Here, you are stating a fact that will hopefully turn out true if your assumptions are right. Though this difference in meaning is too subtle to be easily appreciated, it’s not really alien to English either. Imagine how you’d answer if I asked you what your friend was doing. Here too, there are two ways you could answer even in English. If you’re fairly sure, you could say something like, “He is sleeping.” You’re stating a fact here. But if you are not really sure but assuming that he must be asleep, you can say, “He will be sleeping.” Note that both these sentences are indicating an action in the present tense but in the second one, “will” slightly alters the certainty of the stated fact. This is what happens with Spanish. You use the present tense whenever you are stating a fact with conviction but the future tense wherever a supposition is being made.

Universal facts, like the sunrise, are best expressed using the present tense
Universal facts, like the sunrise, are best expressed using the present tense
Photo credit: BY-YOUR-⌘ licensed CC BY 2.0
As further illustration, check out these sentences:

Mañana el sol sale por el este (tomorrow, the Sun rises in the East)

Mañana el sol saldrá por el este (tomorrow, the Sun will rise in the East)

While in English, either of the above constructs is colloquially sound. But, when it comes to Spanish, you’re more likely to hear the first. Why? Because it’s a fact and there’s no guesswork at play here! Whenever you talk about the Sun’s rising in the East, you talk with conviction. It’s a universal fact. The second sentence using the future tense conjugation makes it sound like your assumption. You don’t assume that the Sun will rise in the East; you just know it!

It’s all about certainty

So, facts take the present tense and assumptions, the future. What about plans? They are neither facts nor vague assumptions! Well, these are, again, best expressed using the present tense but with a twist. You stick a “going to” with the verb and you’re good:

Mañana voy a comer con ella (Tomorrow, I am going to eat with her)

You are fairly determined to eat with her and that’s why, a future tense shouldn’t be invoked to ruin your certainty. However, since your plan is still just in the pipeline, you’d be better off wrapping it with a “going to.” This step is not compulsory, though, and even the following sentence will do just fine:

Mañana como con ella (Tomorrow, I eat with her)

The last example, of course, does lend a greater degree of certainty to your plans and implies that you are quite determined to execute them. Which of the last two constructs you choose should ideally just be a function of your prerogative and circumstances.

so, what’s the moral of this story? It’s simple. Just use the present tense when discussing future events for all practical purposes unless you are even a wee bit doubtful of the event in question. And whether you use “going to” or just do with a simple present tense (also called, present indicative) construct, is absolutely up to you. Let’s summarize this for a quick reference:

Present indicative with “going to” – Quite certain (I am going to meet her tomorrow)

Present indicative without “going to” – Even more certain (I meet her tomorrow)

Future – Supposition or assumption; not quite certain (I will meet her tomorrow)

That’s the trick – No more cramming up on the future tense conjugations at least for the time being! Enjoy!

The BIG RED BOOK of super quick Spanish vocabulary using mnemonics and other unconventional memory shortcuts is out and ready to make Spanish accessible and fun once again. 1,442 pages packed to the brim to help you nail difficult Spanish words @ THE SPEED OF THOUGHT.
Get your copy NOW for just $29.99 $19.99!

Master Spanish, one post at a time
Join thousands of language wizards who receive several game-changing tips to ace Spanish in their inbox each week. You‘ll get no less than two exhaustive articles every week that will teach you how to learn, memorize, and get ahead of your Spanish game without so much as lifting a finger. Mnemonics, motivational ideas, immersion tricks, free resources – we have it all covered!

Visit PeppyBurro and subscribe today!

HOUSE RULES: We love comments that add value to our discussions and help build a healthy community of Spanish-lovers around them. Please keep’em coming; feel free to speak your mind. Everything’s welcome unless you’re spamming or trolling (refer to our Comment Policy). You’re also welcome to share links to relevant resources but no annoying; sales pitches please! So, let’s get talking, shall we?

Liked what you read? Then please take a moment to share it with your folks!

No comments

Speak your mind...leave a comment!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.