No Prep Grammar: The Future Tenses - The Difference Between Going To and Will

No Prep Grammar
The Future Tenses - The Difference Between Going To and Will

Chris Speck
by Chris Speck 8,589 views

For your lowest level learners, explaining that going to and will mean the same thing is probably okay  - they do both express the future,  but as your students progress you’ll need to come to grips with the subtle difference between the two. Simplistically, going to is used for a plan that you have thought of before the time of speaking and will is used for a decision that you’ve made now.

  • I’m going to see my mother-in-law on Sunday (it’s a plan I’ve already made)
  • I’ll help you carry those heavy bags. (I can see you struggling and I’ve just decided that I’ll help)


1. Arrange the Sentences

Scramble some future tense sentences on the board and ask students to unscramble them before they check their answers in pairs. This should help students get a sense of how to form sentences and questions using going to and will. Make sure you use a mix or negative and positive sentences as well as questions. Ask students to check their answers in pairs before you elicit the answers.

  • I’m going on holiday to Germany tomorrow
  • I’m not going to get married next year.
  • What are you going to study next year?
  • I will see you tomorrow.
  • I won’t come to class tomorrow.
  • Will you lend me some money?


2. Dictate and Chat

You or volunteer students can dictate these and then check spellings. Follow up by getting students to talk about the sentences together in pairs. Monitor as they discuss and elicit answers from students as a class, talk about any interesting answers that students may have.

  1. 1.            Where are you going to live in the future?
  2. 2.            What are you going to study next year?
  3. 3.            Are you going to get married? When? Where?
  4. 4.            Do you think you’ll have children? How many?
  5. 5.            Tell me something you are definitely NOT going to do in your life.
  6. 6.            Where will you go tonight?
  7. 7.            What are you going to do this weekend?
  8. 8.            Tell me about your life in twenty years.


3. Correct the Sentences

Write these incorrect sentences on the board and ask students to correct them in pairs. Use a mixture of sentences that are incorrect because of their formation and some because of their meaning.

  • I will study at university next year. (I’m going to study…)
  • I’m going to open window, it’s hot. (I’ll open the window…)
  • We is going to have a party. (We are going to…)


4. Make a Time Table

Draw a simple time table of your week on the board and tell your students about your future plans as you populate the spaces with things you are going to do in the next week. Have fun with the things you are going to do and tell lies if you wish.









make dinner



go for a helicopter ride



Clean my flat


Ask students to make their own time table and fill it with things they are going to do – encourage them to write something for every day even if it isn’t true. When students finish, ask them to share their time table with a partner and explain what they are going to do for the coming week. As students talk, circulate and monitor, make a note of any of the good or bad examples of going to usage that you can share with students at the end of the activity.

Bring student attention back to the board and write:

Your mother is going to visit on Thursday.

Explain how this will change your plans on Wednesday, because this is a decision you are making at the time of speaking use will. Now, write some other sentences on the board and ask students, in the same pairs, to discuss how their plans will change using will instead of going to. Use examples that you think your students will be familiar with but here are some suggestions:

  • You must go to work on Monday.
  • You have a doctor’s appointment on Friday.
  • There’s a party on Tuesday night.
  • It’s your partner’s birthday on Saturday.
  • You won $1 million dollars!

Monitor as students talk, listen out for good examples of will that you can share with students when they finish. Ask students to share their changes with the class then share any feedback you have.


5. The Right Answer – Using Will in Spoken Situations.

Write, I’m thirsty on the board. Elicit and write a response to this using will, e.g. I’ll get you a drink.

Write or dictate some more sentences and ask students to write some responses using will.

  1. 1.            I’ve lost my wallet
  2. 2.            I’m freezing
  3. 3.            I’m sad
  4. 4.            I’ve got a headache
  5. 5.            I’m thirsty
  6. 6.            My bags are very heavy.
  7. 7.            I’m hungry
  8. 8.            I’m very hot
  9. 9.            I’m poor.
  10. 10.          I’m really tired.

Circulate and monitor as students work together. When students finish elicit answers as a class and write some of these on the board. Test answers by asking saying the sentences (and others you might think of) to individual students to elicit a response.

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