Have you ever heard of Future in the Past Tense? The chances are – you haven’t! It’s quite weird, but it’s true – many English Grammar books and English learning websites simply ignore Future in the Past!
So here’s how it works – whenever you’re re-telling past events, the word WILL becomes WOULD – when referring to future during your story.
Example: After the first week in gym I decided I WOULD never quit!
Before I had learned this simple grammar rule about using Future in the Past, I would say the above sentence using the word WILL:
After the first week in gym I decided I WILL never quit it!
How wrong was I… And how wrong are thousands of other foreign English speakers! Yes, I’ve met quite fluent English speakers in my life who still kept on making the same mistake – using WILL when describing future events from past’s perspective.
If you’re wondering why is this Future in the Past Tense often ignored by English teaching industry and foreign English speakers – here’s a very reasonable explanation.
If you see a word WOULD used in a sentence like – I told him I WOULD call back – you might think it’s used to describe a probable action like in conditional sentences.
And indeed if you’re saying something like – I WOULD call back if I had enough time – the word would implies probability. In other words – something you would do if the circumstances were different.
But in this situation it wouldn’t make sense to use the word WILL as you’re not describing a future decision. So this reasoning makes us assume that the word WOULD is used only when describing actions with a certain degree of probability.
And even if you’re been reading somewhere about Future in the Past – did it say that you MUST change WILL to WOULD when describing future decisions from the past perspective? Most likely it didn’t, and I’m really shocked about it!
You’ve probably learned all types of conditionals and know how to use them, but still saying things like – I told my brother I will start looking for a new job next week.
You see – most likely it’s perfect in terms of grammar from our native language standpoint, but totally wrong in English!
It’s not one of those grammar rules that can be ignored like skipping the word Do or Does when starting a question. You can say You did it? instead of Did you do it? – and in a real life conversation if will be fine, no-one will notice that. But if you say – Didn’t I tell you I’LL do it? – any native speaker will notice the mistake.
Future in the Past is one of those things that definitely adds a native touch to your English and you just have to say – Didn’t I tell you I’D do it?
Also please note that the word WOULD shortens and becomes ‘d – I’d instead of I would.
So to make your English speech more native and fluent, please drop the will’s and ‘ll’s when telling stories about past events and referring to future decisions or events throughout the story. Use would and ‘d instead!
I rang in sick today and told my boss I wouldn’t come in till Monday.
Didn’t I tell you I’d go shopping today?
By the way – if you’ve been thinking that this ‘d means would as in describing probable actions – you’re wrong! It’s simply saying will in a story where the main action takes place in the past!
So you see – little things like this grammar rule can make a BIG difference in English fluency!
I hope you’ll find this useful and as always I’d love you to comment below!
P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!