English grammar - will and going to

- - Will and going to


will + verb
am / is / are + going to + verb

will not / won't + verb
am / is / are not + going to + verb



  1. To give or ask for information or facts about the future.
    • Her parents will be here in about an hour.
    • All her friends will come to her wedding.
  2. For plans or decisions made at the time of speaking.
    • "We need some paper for the photocopier." "Okay, I'll go and get some."
    • "What would you like to eat?" "I'll have a pizza please."
  3. To make predictions about the future.
    • I think it will rain tomorrow.
    • Al Pacino will win the award for Best Actor.
    • Do you think Brazil will win the World Cup?
  4. To make predictions about the present.
    • Don't phone her now, she'll be busy.
  5. To offer to do something.
    • I'll take you to the airport tomorrow.
    • That suitcase looks heavy, I'll carry it for you.
  6. To agree to do something.
    • Okay, I'll come with you.
  7. To promise to do something.
    • I promise I won't tell anyone you broke the window.
  8. To make requests (or give orders).
    • Will you open the door for me please?
    • Will you marry me?
    • Will you shut up please?
  9. To refuse to do something or talk about refusals.
    • No, I won't cook your dinner, you can cook it yourself.
    • I've asked him but he won't do it.

Going to

  1. For plans or decisions made before speaking.
    • Is John coming home soon? - Yes, I'm going to meet him at the airport tomorrow.
    • I'm going to watch TV in a minute, because my favourite programme is on.
  2. To make predictions about the future based on present evidence.
    • Look at the sky. It's going to rain soon.
    • Germany have just scored. England are going to lose again.


(See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below)

  1. In connected speech, will is usually contracted to 'll,
    pronounced /əl/ or /ʊ/ or even /ɔː/
    • I'll /aɪjəl/ - this in turn is sometimes reduced to /ɑːl/
    • You'll /juːəl/ - this is sometimes reduced to /jɔːl/
    • He'll /hiːəl/
    • We'll /wiːəl/
    • They'll /ðɪəəl/ - this is sometimes reduced to /ðel/
  2. In connected speech, going to is reduced to its weak form, with several possible pronunciations.
    • I'm going to leave - can be:
      - /gəʊɪŋtə/ - the vowel sound in "to" is reduced to a schwa
      - /gəʊɪntə/ - the vowel sound in "to" is reduced to a schwa and the last consonant sound of "going" is elided, so /ŋ/ becomes /n/
      - /gʌnə/ - this is the often quoted "gonna"

Ideas for teaching will and going to

How do you teach will and going to? Add your idea »

Teaching will: first I show a picture of a fortune teller and ask students what people usually want to know about their future, next I elicit from students how a fortune teller predicts something in the future.
Example: You will marry a very rich man. You will experience a great loss. You will be rich, etc...
Teaching (be) going to: first I show a picture of a man who won the lottery. Then I show a picture of a reporter who will interview him. The reporter wants to know how he will spend his money in the future. I ask students the questions that a reporter might ask, then elicit how the winner would answer the questions. Example: "I am going to set up my own business." "I am going to live in hollywood", etc.

Is all this underlying the difference between "going to" and "will" not a bit of a hair splitting? Let's look at the sentence mentioned in the examples above: "I am going to meet him"... Does "I will meet him" not equally imply that my meeting him was decided before it was announced? I find it hard to believe that the decision "to meet him" is being arrived at exactly at the moment the announcement is made and I find it yet harder to believe that "I will meet him" means that the decision to do so is not yet arrived at the moment of the announcement. Are my doubts reasonable? Would be a serious oversimplification if both forms were used interchangeably? Would our students not be better of and less confused?

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