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Verbs - Indefinite Future

Verbs - Indefinite Future

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Indefinite Future


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn to express an indefinite future. We will learn to use the modal verb "might" and several adverbs that indicate possibility. In the past, we have learned to use the modal verbs "can" , "could", "will", "would", "shall", "should", and "may". In this lesson, we will work with the modal verb "might". The modal verb "might" is actually the past tense of the modal verb "may". However, its use is similar to that of the other modal past forms – and it is used to express possibility in the future.

Sometimes the modal verb "might" is used in an if-then sentence, like this: "If David has to work late every night, (then) he might look for a different job.". In this sentence, it is not definite that David will look for a different job. Both the first and second parts of the sentence are possibilities. Consistent with the first sentence, we could say "If David has to work late every night, (then) he might put a bed in his office.".  

Compare these indefinite future sentences with the more definite sentences: "If David has to work late every night, he will look for a different job." and "If David has to work late every night, he will put a bed in his office.". In these sentences, the indefinite part of the sentence is its first part, but IF the first part happens, the second part will definitely happen.   

Compare those sentences to the definite sentences here: "Since David has to work late every night, he is going to look for a different job." and "Since David has to work late very night, he is going to put a bed in his office.".In both of these final sentences, both parts are definitely true.

Other ways of indicating possibility in English are the adverbs "possibly, probably, maybe," and "perhaps".  For example, we might say "I will probably go shopping tomorrow." Or "I will possibly go shopping tomorrow.". Another way to express the same meaning is "I might go shopping tomorrow." or "Maybe I will go shopping tomorrow."  or "Perhaps I will go shopping tomorrow.".

The word "probably" is more definite than "possibly, maybe," and "perhaps".
Now that we have an idea of how to express an indefinite future, let us listen to David and Jennifer as they discuss tomorrow's activities.

David: Tomorrow is Saturday. What should we do?

Jennifer:  I might go grocery shopping. We might be out of bread.

David: Oh, maybe I will go with you.

Jennifer: Then I will probably take the car to the car wash.

David: Do you want to go out to eat?

Jennifer: Possibly. We might not have time to cook.

David starts this conversation by saying "Tomorrow is Saturday. What should we do?".

Jennifer answers  "I might go grocery shopping. We might be out of bread.". She might have said "Maybe I will go grocery shopping. Maybe we are out of bread.". Compare these sentences to the more definite "I am going grocery shopping. We are out of bread.".

David answers "Oh, maybe I will go with you.". He could have said "I might go with you.". Compare these with the more definite "I am going with you.".

Jennifer says "Then I will probably take the car to the car wash.". She could have said "Then I might take the car to the car wash." or "Then maybe I will take the car to the car wash." or "Then I will possibly take the car to the car wash.". Compare these sentences to the more definite "Then I am taking the car to the car wash." .

David then asks Jennifer if she wants to go out to eat. Jennifer answers "Possibly. We might not have time to cook.". She could also have said "Maybe. Perhaps we will not have time to cook.". Compare this to the more definite "Okay. We will not have time cook.".

Let us listen to the dialog again. Listen for the various expressions of probability and possibility.

David: Tomorrow is Saturday. What should we do?

Jennifer:  I might go grocery shopping. We might be out of bread.

David: Oh, maybe I will go with you.

Jennifer: Then I will probably take the car to the car wash.

David: Do you want to go out to eat?

Jennifer: Possibly. We might not have time to cook.

Great! Now you have learned to express an indefinite future. Try to use these expressions in your conversations in English.