Present tenses for the future

Present Continuous, Present Simple, and “be to” and “be about to”

The Present Continuous for arrangements

Jim: Are you doing anything this evening?
Ron: Yes, I’m going to a basketball match.
The Knicks are playing the Lakers.
I bought my ticket last month.

We use the Present Continuous for what someone has arranged to do in the future.
Here Ron has arranged to go to the match. (He has bought the ticket.)
Here are a few more examples:
• I’m meeting John at half past five.
• Sally is coming round later in the evening.
• David is going to Italy next month.
• They’re having a party on Satruday.

We also use the Present Continuous to talk about things happening now.
• Present:  We’re having a party at the moment.
• Future:    We’re having a party tomorrow.
Here the phrase of time shows wheter we mean the present or the future. But sometimes there is no phrase of time, as when Ron says The Knicks are playing the Lakers. Here it is clear from Jim’s question that the conversation is about a future event.

The Present Continuous for the future and be going to have similar meanings.
• We’re having a party on Saturday.
(We have made the arangements.)
• We’re going to have a party on Saturday.
(We intend / we have decided to have one.)
Often we can use either form.
• I’m meeting / I’m going to meet John at half past five.

The Present Simple for timetables

Matt: What time does your train leave tomorrow?
Molly: Seven thirty in the morning.
It gets into Glasgow at around twelve.

We can use the Present Simple for the future when we are talking about a timetable, usually a public one such as a train timetable.
• The game starts at half past six.
• The train leaves at seven thirty.
• Next week is Halloween.
• Here’s the trip brochure. We spend two days in Prague.
Compare the Present Simple for repeated actions.
• The train leaves at seven thirty every morning.

Be to and be about to

We use be to for a future event that is officially arranged.
It is often used in news reports.
• The Queen is to visit Spain in October.
•  The Olympics are to take place in London this year.
We could also use the present continuous here.
• The Queen is visiting Spain in October.

We use be about to for the very near future.
• The plain is at the end of the runway
It is about to take off.
• Do you want to say goodbye to your visitors?
They’re about to leave.