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Lauren Harsh

A French Future Tense Study Guide

French has multiple future tenses, and like in English, they’re used when referring to events that haven’t yet occurred.

Let’s talk about the future! There are three main ways to express the future tense in French: futur proche, futur simple, and futur anterieur. Each one has different rules and purposes.

Prior knowledge of the French present tense and infinitives is enormously helpful when learning future tense conjugations, as is knowledge of the past tense, particularly passé composé.

Futur Proche

Futur proche, or the French near future, is the literal equivalent of saying, in English, “I am going to __.” The statement has two parts: the “going”, which is the appropriate present tense conjugation of aller, and the infinitive of the main verb.

To review: here are the present tense conjugations for aller:

Aller (to go) - present tense

  • Je vais
  • Tu vas
  • Il/Elle/On va
  • Nous allons
  • Vous allez
  • Ils/Elles vont

And here is the full futur proche conjugation of marcher:

Marcher (to walk) - near future tense

  • Je vais marcher
  • Tu vas marcher
  • Il/Elle/On va marcher
  • Nous allons marcher
  • Vous allez marcher
  • Ils/Elles vont marcher

Negation in Futur Proche

To negate a future proche statement, place the ne, pas around the aller. That makes “I am not going to drive” into “Je ne vais pas conduire”, or “You are not going to sing” into “Tu ne vas pas chanter”.

Futur Simple

Futur simple is closer to “I will ___”, except it’s expressed in two words instead of three. You cannot simply say “I will” in French. You will what…? The word “will” is part of the conjugation. Native francophones use futur proche more frequently than English speakers use its equivalent. That leaves futur simple reserved for big picture statements, hypotheticals, and things that will likely happen in the future, but are not currently in the process of happening (i.e. “I will get married one day” or “I will go to law school one day”). Futur simple can also be used to express probability or likelihood, especially with avoir and être.

Unlike most French verb conjugations, futur simple does not chop the last two letters off the infinitive before conjugating. For “-ir” and “-er” verbs, the endings are added directly to the infinitive. For “-re” verbs, you chop off only the “-e” but keep the “-r”. This also applies to conditional endings.

The endings are the same as they are for être. This rule applies to most conjugations, except for - you guessed it - nous and vous.

Parler (to speak) - future tense

  • Je parlerai
  • Tu parleras
  • Il/Elle/On parlera
  • Nous parlerons
  • Vous parlerez
  • Ils/Elles parleront

Pronunciation note: the “e” before the “r” is unvoiced in the futur simple conjugation. That means parlerai is pronounced “parl-RAY”, parlera is pronounced “parl-RAH”, parlerons is pronounced “parl-ROHN”, parlerez is also pronounced “parl-RAY”, and parleront is pronounced “parl-RON”.

Finir (to finish)

  • Je finirai
  • Tu finiras
  • Il/Elle/On finira
  • Nous finirons
  • Vous finirez
  • Ils/Elles finiront

Descendre (to go downward)

  • Je descendrai
  • Tu descendras
  • Il/Elle/On descendra
  • Nous descendrons
  • Vous descendrez
  • Ils/Elles descendront

Irregular Futur Simple Stems

Futur simple has quite a few irregular stems. French is like English, in that grammar “rules” usually come with strings attached.

Here’s a few you should know:

  • Aller (to go): ir-
  • Apercevoir (to notice): apercevr-
  • Asseoir (to sit): assoir-
  • Avoir (to have): aur-
  • Courir (to run): courr-
  • Cueillir (to pick): cueiller-
  • Devoir (to have to): devr-
  • Envoyer (to send): enverr-
  • Être (to be): ser-
  • Faire (to make, to do): fer-
  • Falloir (to be necessary): faur-
  • Mourir (to die): mourr-
  • Pleuvoir (to rain): pleuvr-
  • Pouvoir (to be able to): pourr-
  • Recevoir (to receive): recevr-
  • Savoir (to know): saur-
  • Tenir (to hold): tiendr-
  • Valoir (to be worth): vaudr-
  • Venir (to come): viendr-
  • Voir (to see): verr-
  • Vouloir (to want): voudr-

These still have the same endings as regular verbs. Here are two examples that are the most common. For the rest, you apply the pattern!

Avoir

  • J’aurai
  • Tu auras
  • Il/Elle/On aura
  • Nous aurons
  • Vous aurez
  • Ils/Elles auront

Être

  • Je serai
  • Tu seras
  • Il/Elle/On sera
  • Nous serons
  • Vous serez
  • Ils/Elles seront

Futur Antérieur

Futur antérieur, or future perfect, is the “I will have” future. It has two parts: the auxiliary and the main verb.

The auxiliary is either avoir or être, conjugated in futur simple, and the main verb is the thing the subject will have done as a past participle. This sort of makes it like a combination between futur simple and passé composé.

There is a classic mnemonic device for French verbs that use être for both futur antérieur and passé composé:

DR. & MRS. VAN DER TRAMPP

Devenir (to come from)
Revenir (to come back, to return)

&

Monter (to go up, climb)
Rester (to stay)
Sortir (to go out)

Venir (to come)
Aller (to go)
Naître (to be born)

Descendre (to come down)
Entrer (to enter)
Rentrer (to return)

Tomber (to fall)
Retourner (to return)
Arriver (to arrive, to come)
Mourir (to die)
Partir (to leave)
Passer (to pass [by])

You may notice a theme: all of these verbs are related to coming and going, including the big coming and goings of birth and death.

For past participles, regular “-er” verbs end with “é”, regular “-ir” verbs end with “i”, and regular “-re” verbs end with “u”.

Notable irregular past participles

  • Avoir: eu (had)
  • Boire: bu (drank)
  • Conduire: conduit (driven)
  • Connaître: connu (known)
  • Croire: cru (believed)
  • Devoir: du (had)
  • Dire: dit (said)
  • Écrire: écrit (written)
  • Être: été (been)
  • Faire: fait (made, done)
  • Lire: lu (read)
  • Mettre: mis (put)
  • Offrir: offrit (offered)
  • Ouvrir: ouvert (opened)
  • Pleuvoir: plu (rained)
  • Pouvoir: pu (been able to)
  • Prendre: pris (taken)
  • Recevoir: reçu (received)
  • Savoir: su (known)
  • Voir: vu (seen)
  • Vouloir: voulu (wanted)

Here are some examples:

Manger (to eat)

  • J’aurai mangé
  • Tu auras mangé
  • Il/Elle/On aura mangé
  • Nous aurons mangé
  • Vous aurez mangé
  • Ils/Elles auront mangé

Remplir (to fill)

  • J’aurai rempli
  • Tu auras rempli
  • Il/Elle/On aura rempli
  • Nous aurons rempli
  • Vous aurez rempli
  • Ils/Elles auront rempli

Vendre (to sell)

  • J’aurai vendu
  • Tu auras vendu
  • Il/Elle/On aura vendu
  • Nous aurons vendu
  • Vous aurez vendu
  • Ils/Elles auront vendu

Aller (to go)

  • Je serais allé
  • Tu seras allé
  • Il/Elle/On sera allé
  • Nous serons allé
  • Vous serez allé
  • Ils/Elles seront allé

Partir (to leave)

  • Je serais parti
  • Tu seras parti
  • Il/Elle/On sera parti
  • Nous serons parti
  • Vous serez parti
  • Ils/Elles seront parti

Faire (to make, to do)

  • J’aurai fait
  • Tu auras fait
  • Il/Elle/On aura fait
  • Nous aurons fait
  • Vous aurez fait
  • Ils/Elles auront fait

Être (to be)

  • J’aurai été
  • Tu auras été
  • Il/Elle/On aura été
  • Nous aurons été
  • Ils/Elles auront été

Negation of Futur Anterieur

To negate a futur anterieur statement, place the ne, pas around the auxiliary. Yes, this is like the negation for futur proche, and applies to every verb conjugation type that has two parts.

This makes “I will not have gone” into “Je n’aurai pas allé”, and “You will not have seen” into “Tu n’auras pas vu”.

Using the Present Tense to Express the Future

There are some contexts in French when it is acceptable to use the present tense when talking about future events. If a sentence includes an indication of when the event will take place, the future is already implied, so a future tense conjugation is not necessary.

Some examples of such indications include: bientôt (soon), dans cinq minutes (in five minutes), dans une heure (in an hour), demain (tomorrow), l’an prochain (next year), le moi prochain (next month), and la semaine prochaine (next week).

This makes sentences like “J’arrive dans dix minutes” (“I arrive in ten minutes”) and “Tu présents demain” (“You present tomorrow”) grammatically acceptable and correct.

Further Learning

When to use each type of future tense is, for the most part, logical. Like other French verb conjugations, becoming more fluent is a matter of memorization, noticing patterns, and practice, practice, practice. The conjugation of futur simple is easier than others, so the challenging part will be memorizing irregular stems well enough to use them off the cuff. Stick to it! You’ll be ready for a trip to Paris in no time.

Keep your French self-study going, and check out How to Start Learning French: An Indispensable Guide and Fundamentals of French Grammar.