The French Future Tense – Difference Between Futur Simple and Futur Proche

French has two future tenses: the futur proche and the futur simple

These tenses are interchangeable in most contexts, especially in spoken French. So what is the difference?

Grammar Lesson on the French Future Tense. Futur simple vs. futur proche.

1. Futur Proche Versus Futur Simple

Firstly, the two tenses generally differ in their level of formality; the future proche is used in more informal contexts and the simple future in more formal contexts. Thus, the futur proche is primarily used in speech and less frequently in writing.

Secondly, according to traditional grammars, the two tenses also differ in their relative distance to the present moment.

The futur proche typically refers to a time very close to the present moment, i.e, the near or immediate future.

The futur simple, on the other hand, is often used for events in the more distant future. Because the futur simple is associated with distant future events, it often takes on a detached, objective quality making it the preferred tense for future events that represent general truths.

Qui vivra, verra. (Whoever will live, will see).

L’homme sera toujours l’homme. (Man will always be man / Boys will be boys.)

Lastly, the two tenses also indicate a difference in the speaker’s perception of the future event.

The futur proche indicates that the speaker is relatively certain that the future event will actually happen.

In contrast, the futur simple indicates that the speaker is less certain of the future event coming to pass.

Let’s imagine a context to make this distinction more clear. Suppose that a disturbed man has just climbed out onto the ledge of a skyscraper and loses his balance. A person sees the man beginning to teeter and screams: Il va tomber ! He’s going to fall! vs. Il tombera ! (He will fall!)

In the first example sentence, the verb in the near future sounds more plausible in French and in English because when someone loses his balance, he will invariably fall. In this case, the tense indicates both the immediacy of the future event, as well as its inevitability in the mind of the speaker.

The French future tense: differences between futur simple and futur proche

2. The Near Future in French  

Now, let’s study the near future construction in French.

This tense is a construction using the verb “aller” (to go) in the present tense + the main verb in the infinitive form:

  • Je vais
  • tu vas
  • il / elle va
  • nous allons
  • vous allez
  • ils vont

+ verb in the infinitive = parler, manger, étudier, etc.

For example:

Cet été, je vais aller à Paris, je vais parler français tous les jours. (This summer, I’m going to travel to Paris, I’m going to speak French every day).

Ce soir, ils vont manger des crêpes. (This evening, they are going to eat crêpes).

In the negative, the “ne” and the “pas” surround the conjugated verb (so they surround aller).

Je ne vais pas travailler pendant les vacances. (I’m not going to work during the holidays).

Ils ne vont pas au cinéma ce weekend. (they are not going to the movies this weekend)

If you are using an object pronoun, the pronoun goes between the conjugated verb and the infinitive (so between aller and the second verb).

Je vais les inviter. (I’m going to invite them)

Je ne vais pas lui donner. (I’m not going to give it to him/her).

Now, answer the following questions using the futur proche:

Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire…

• Ce soir ?

• Demain midi ?

• Le weekend prochain ?

• Pour les prochaines vacances ?

• L’année prochaine ?

• Dans 10 ans ?

3. The Simple Future in French

Focus on French Grammar: the French future tense

In grammar, “simple” doesn’t mean “easy”, it means that there is only one part (one word) in the verb. We’ve seen that there are 2 parts in the futur proche (the verb aller + the infinitive of the verb), for the futur simple you have only one part, but the conjugation is more difficult.

What you do is that you take the infinitive of the verb you want to conjugate, for example, PARTIR, and you add the endings of the futur. Let’s have a look at it:

FRENCH SIMPLE FUTURE CONJUGATION

Je PARTIR-ai
Tu PARTIR-as
Il / elle PARTIR-a
On PARTIR-a
Nous PARTIR-ons
Vous PARTIR-ez
Ils / elles PARTIR-ont

So, you will say that it’s not very complicated. That’s right, but there are some irregular verbs in the French future tense that you need to learn:

ENVOYER (to send)j’enverrai
VOIR (to see)je verrai
COURIR (to run)je courrai
POUVOIR (can)je pourrai
MOURIR (to die)je mourrai
 
VENIR (to come)je viendrai
TENIR (to hold)je tiendrai
VALOIR (to be worth)il vaudra
FALLOIR (must)il faudra
VOULOIR (to want)je voudrai
 
DEVOIR (must)je devrai
RECEVOIR (to receive)je recevrai
PLEUVOIR (to rain)il pleuvra
 
AVOIR (to have)j’aurai
ÊTRE (to be)je serai
SAVOIR (to know)je saurai
FAIRE (to do)je ferai
ALLER (to go)j’irai
 
APPELER (to call)J’appellerai (double l)
JETER (to throw)Je jetterai
ESSUYER (to wipe)J’essuierai (no y)

Here are some examples with the futur simple in French:

Quand il aura 60 ans, il prendra sa retraite. (When he is 60, he will retire).
Quand je serai en vacances, je te rendrai visite. (When I am on holiday, I will visit you)

Note that simple future tense is used after “quand”.

Other examples:
En 2100, il y aura des voitures volantes. (In 2100, there will be flying cars.)
Dans cinq ans, nous irons en Espagne. (In five years, we will go to Spain.)