So how do we use a future tense to talk about business situations and what vocabulary do we use?
This is a typical sentence by business people to discuss future plans.
“I believe BBE should open an office in Paris. We would be able to offer translations services in French as well as in German and English. I am currently working on a revenue forecast for the next three years but I think it will be a success.We could employ one person to begin with and see how it goes. I mean, we are going to expand anyway, so why not start with a large neighbour like France and with some of our customers that need French translations now.”
In this statement, we use almost all of the ways you can to talk about the future. As well as ‘going to’ and ‘will’ we also use model auxiliary verbs such as could, would and should, which express the possibility of something happening in the future. Can, may and must are other examples of model auxiliary verbs that express possibility. Model auxiliary verbs can also be used to express events in the past (e.g. I could speak English when I was three) and in conditional sentences that express possibility (e.g. If I won the lottery, I would buy a Porsche) but we might talk more about these points next time and get back to the future.
Sometimes other words before would, could and should make them stronger or more possible or alternatively less possible. Let’s analyse some of the possibilities to see how the speaker really feels….
- I believe BBE should open an office in Paris. = 60-70% (higher = I strongly believe we should)
- We would be able to offer translation services in French… = 100% (it is possible after an earlier future event happens i.e. as a result of opening the new office – would is the past of will and able is like CAN DO)
- I am currently working on a revenue forecast… = 25-75% complete (it’s present continuous but it has a future meaning – I am working on it ‘now’ in general but I plan to finish it soon..)
- I think it will be a success. = the result is 25-40% possible (the person expresses a little doubt – stronger = I definitely think it will be a success 50-75%)
- We could employ one person to begin with… = 50%
- and see how it goes = 50% (interesting expression in the present simple form that really means 50/50 like will)
- going to expand anyway… = 90% (the decision was made before the time of speaking)
In examples 1,2, & 3, there are additional words that make the future event more or less possible. (believe, think, able, strongly believe, definitely think)
We can also use present continuous to talk about future plans – (subject + am/is/are + verb + ing). E.g. I am currently working on a revenue forecast. This doesn’t mean I am working on it right now as it suggests. This means that if you go to my desk you will find the excel sheet ‘forecast.xls’ open on my computer and maybe 50% complete. I am in the middle of it ‘in general‘ and I PLAN to finish it soon. Compare to…I am having a party on Saturday. It’s a future event and a plan I am in the middle of!
As with ‘see how it goes or see how it works out’, which also have a future meaning, some managers in meetings and conference love to use ‘going forward’ in every second sentence.
E.g. John, going forward, what do you think your sales will be next quarter?
or in other words….John, what do you think you are going to sell next quarter?
For exercises on future tenses visit: Going to
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