The Future Tense

In Spanish, the future tense is an extremely easy tense to use because it is created by a special verb conjugation. The first step to understanding the Spanish future tense is to realize that its structure is completely different than it is in English. A Spanish verb in the future tense is only one word, whereas in English the future tense requires at least two words: “will” or “shall,” which are placed in front of the verb in an affirmative sentence; in a negative sentence, the English future tense requires that “will not” or “shall not” precede the verb. To confuse matters, English speakers also have many colloquial methods of creating the future tense. The expressions “going to” or “gonna” are often used in affirmative sentences, and “won't” or “not gonna” are often used in negative sentences. The future in Spanish is much more clear and simple. It is simply a matter of learning to conjugate the verb in the future tense forms. There are no tricky helping verbs or confusing slang expressions as there are in English.

Using the future tense in sentences

The future tense is used in sentences when the action of the verb will happen in the future. There are many ways to express this in English, and they all require more than one word. Here are several examples of the future tense in English in simple affirmative and negative sentences.

  • I shall study. He will not study.
  • I'll study. He won't study.
  • I am going to study. He is not going to study.
  • I'm gonna study. He's not gonna study.

Here's an English grammar tidbit for you to note: You may be surprised to find that it is grammatically correct to use “shall” instead of “will” as the helping verb to create the future tense when the subject of the sentence is “I” or “we.”

Any of the above sentences can be written in Spanish by using the future tense conjugation of the verb.

  • Yo estudiaré. Él no estudiará.

Do not get confused by the English words “will,” “won't,” or “gonna.” Just conjugate the verb in the future tense form to go with the subject. No helping verb is necessary, and a negative sentence in Spanish simply places the word no in front of the conjugated verb.

There is another way in Spanish to indicate that the action of the verb is in the future without using the future tense. The formula you use is:

  • present tense of the verb ir + a + infinitive.

This formula is illustrated in the following sentences, which are followed by their English equivalents.

  • Yo voy a estudiar. Él no va a estudiar.
  • I shall study. (I'm going to study.) He will not study. (He's not going to study.)

Because this method requires only the ability to conjugate the verb ir in the present tense, students of Spanish use it often until they learn to use the actual future tense. In reality, it does not matter whether you use the actual future tense or the “ ir + a + infinitive” formula.

Regular verbs

So far, all the tenses for which we have learned the conjugated forms have required that we remove the infinitive ending. That means that you must remove the ‐ar,er, or ‐ir ending from the verb before adding the appropriate ending for the form and tense.

The future tense is unusual because the endings for each form are added to the entire infinitive. Because the entire infinitive is used, there is no need for three different conjugation charts for the three different kinds of infinitives (‐ar, ‐er, and ‐ir verbs). The verb endings in Table are added to the infinitive of any regular verb to create the future tense. The 12 verbs that are irregular in the future tense are presented in the next section, so for now, just remember to use the entire infinitive plus the endings in Table .

Notice that all the future tense endings have an accent except for the nosotros/nosotras form.

Now look over Table , Table , and Table . These serve as examples of verb conjugation charts for regular ‐ar,er, and ‐ir verbs. Notice that the exact same endings are used for all three types of verbs in the future tense.

Irregular verbs

The good news is that the same endings used to create the future tense of regular verbs are used to create the future tense of irregular verbs. What makes a verb irregular in the future tense is that the infinitive must be changed before you add the future tense ending. There are only 12 basic verbs that are irregular in the future tense. The irregularities for the “dirty dozen” follow certain patterns that make them easier to memorize.

Five irregular verbs simply drop the e of the infinitive (see Table ).

Most often, haber is conjugated to go with the subject and is used with a past participle to create the perfect tenses. Since you have just learned to conjugate haber in the future tense, you will be able to create the future perfect tense.

Five other irregulars change the last vowel of the infinitive to the letter d. These are called “ e to d, i to d oddities” and are shown in Tables and .

The final two verbs are irregular in the future tense because they drop the letters e and c from the infinitive. Notice in tables and that the e and c are not in the same order for both verbs:

Don't forget that there are several verbs that add a prefix to a basic verb (see Table ). For example, the verb imponer is the verb poner with a prefix. These verbs are conjugated exactly like the basic verb without the prefix (but have a totally new meaning). The following verbs are irregular in the future tense because they are based on one of the “dirty dozen.”

Did you notice that most of the “ poner verbs” are easy to recognize if you change the n to s? For example, imponer means “to impose” and componer means “to compose.” Look at the conjugation chart in Table 

and you will notice that every form is exactly like the chart for poner except that the prefix com- has been added to the beginning of each form.

Note that not all the verbs that end like decir (see Table ) have the same conjugation endings of the “root verb” in the future tense. For example, bendecir, predecir, and maldecir are regular verbs in the future tense: bendeciré, predeciré, and maldeciré (see Table ).

Verbs like tener will change the last vowel of the infinitive to the letter d. See Tables and .

The verb satisfacer is always conjugated like hacer, so it will also be irregular in the future tense, as you can see in Tables and .

Although you might not be able to predict that satisfacer is conjugated like hacer, many other verbs are easy to predict. Any time you remove the first few letters and you find a verb that looks exactly like a verb you've learned, it will probably be conjugated like the verb you already know in all tenses and forms. For example, you can probably see that the verb proponer is conjugated like poner. If you've paid close attention, you can also predict that proponer means “to propose.” What would the yo form of the future tense of sobresalir be? Because the yo form of salir is saldré, the answer is sobresaldré. You can follow this same process for many other irregular verbs.