Future tense

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The future tense ( Latin tempus futurum 'the future time' ) denotes grammatical categories of the verb that are (mainly) used to denote the future.


Traditionally, in German, constructions with the auxiliary verb are classified as conjugation forms of the verb for the future tense, with the variants future tense I and future tense II .

  • "Marion will arrive tomorrow around 4:30 pm." (Future I, futurum simplex , simple future)
  • "Egon will arrive tomorrow before dinner." (Future II, futurum exactum , premature future, pre-future)

The form of the "future I" has the simple meaning of locating a situation in the future, while the "future II" describes the prematurity of an event relative to a future point in time, ie a relationship between two points in time that are both in the future . Other languages, for example, know the future perfect (English) specifically for actions completed at a certain point in the future.

However, it is not undisputed whether the German auxiliary verb werden has a purely temporal meaning; it has also been suggested that it be viewed primarily as a modal verb that also relates more indirectly to the future.

Actions that had a future aspect in the past (future in the past), on the other hand, are expressed with a would- or should-construction ("Egon wasn't present at dinner yesterday, he should only arrive afterwards").

Future tense I.

Future tense I as future tense

Preview at the time of speaking

The main form of the future tense I in German is a tense form that expresses a reference to the future.

  • Example: "Tomorrow Marion will arrive around 4:30 pm."

This does not mean that the future is mainly expressed through the future I. Research has shown that this description was primarily based on the use of the tense of the Latin verb with its strictly maintained sequence of tenses, the consecutio temporum . As a study carried out in 1982 on a representative corpus of verbal statements (telephone calls) showed, “future” was expressed there in just 4.6% of cases with the future tense I, while 76.0% was calculated for the present tense. In addition, in statements that are clearly related to the future, an additional marking of the future in the verb is unnecessary for reasons of linguistic economy. The actual future form of the German language (as opposed to English or French ) is the present tense:

  • Example: "Marion arrives tomorrow around 4:30 p.m."

The future tense I is unusual, especially when future events are sure to happen as planned.

  • Example: "The train leaves tomorrow at 10 o'clock."

If the basic tense of a narrative is the past tense, future actions can be expressed either through the past tense or through the "future tense of the past tense" ( would + infinitive):

  • Example: “ At the dawn of the next day, the question was: who on earth would show up tomorrow at 11 o'clock ; because tomorrow was the dreaded third. "(Heinrich v. Kleist, The Marquise of O ... )
Preview in the past

In texts with the historical present tense as the basic tense, the future tense serves - as a mirror image of the retrospective present perfect tense - the preview from a past point in time.

  • Example: “Columbus discovered America in 1492. For a long time he will believe that he has discovered a new sea route to India. "

In the past tense, on the other hand, the would construction would be used: “Columbus discovered America in 1492. For a long time he would believe that he had discovered a new sea route to India. "

Modal future tense


The future tense I can also refer to a fact that is still or already current at the time of speaking. It then usually expresses an assumption (modal component).


  • "The voter will ask himself who he can vote for." (= "I suspect that the voter wonders ...")
  • "That will be correct." (= "That is probably correct.")

In contrast to the temporal future tense I, the modal future tense cannot be replaced by present tense forms.


The form of the "future I" (in the second person) is also used as a request:

  • "You will finish your lunch."

or as a prompting question that merges with the preview:

  • "Are you going to finish your lunch?"
  • "You're going to finish your lunch!"

Future tense II

The future II (also: future exactum or future perfect ) expresses the prematurity of an action in the future. If one wants to express that of two actions A and B, both of which are in the future, action A begins before action B, then in the written language B is expressed in future I and A in future II. Relative to B, A lies in the past, which is why the future II is sometimes also called the perfect future, future in the perfect stem or anterior future. The duration or completeness of the actions does not matter. It can also be about events or the action that begins earlier can outlast the action that begins later. Examples:

  • "If at some point this or that cause will have happened (Fut. II), then its consequences will set in (Fut. I)."
  • "When I have got my driver's license (Fut. II), the first thing I will do is go to Paris alone (Fut. I)."

Colloquially, premature actions in the future, since they are in the past relative to the main action in the future, are also expressed by the perfect :

  • "I got my driver's license at this time next year."

instead of

  • "This time next year I will have got my driver's license."

These constructions show transitions in the direction of the expression of a presumption, they are at least the same form as will as a modal verb . When asked "why he did not notice the accident" can express a guess as: ". He will have slept" By insertion of the adverb probably suspect character can be further clarified: ". He will have been asleep" Accordingly comes the Future tense II is also used in rhetorical questions: "What will he have been thinking?" In these examples there is no reference to a future time.

Web links

Wiktionary: Future tense  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Future  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: futur  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See e.g. E.g .: Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen: Tempus fugit. About the interpretation of temporal structures in German. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1986, p. 141 ff.
  2. a b Duden, The Grammar. 7th edition 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 729-731.
  3. Ruth Brons-Albert: The designation of the future in the spoken standard German language. Tübingen 1982.
  4. Duden, The Grammar. 7th edition 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 735 and 1840.
  5. Duden, The Grammar. 7th edition 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 1836-1839.
  6. ^ Kessel / Reimann: Basic knowledge of contemporary German. Fink, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2704-9 , p. 82.
  7. Duden, The Grammar. 7th edition 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 736
  8. Duden: Futurum exactum
  9. ^ Ludger Hoffmann : German grammar. Basics for teacher training, school, German as a second language and German as a foreign language. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2016, p. 251.