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Using the simple future
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By Bieneke Berendsen

Although Dutch children are taught that zullen + infinitive constitutes the future tense, it really is quite a formal way to talk about a future event. On our forum, you can read an interesting topic about internal link the use of zullen.

ik zal + infinitive we zullen + infinitive
je zult + infinitive jullie zullen + infinitive
hij zal + infinitive ze zullen + infinitive

On this page, you will learn how the Dutch usually refer to the future but first, we will discuss the use of zullen + infintive .

So when do we use zullen + infinitive ?

Zullen + infinitive is more similar to 'shall' than to 'will'. We use it to:

  • express a promise or a proposal
  • stress that something will most certainly happen (it is bound to happen)
  • express that an event is likely going to take place (by explicitly mentioning the probability)

Now you may wonder when we do not use it. We do not use it when we casually talk about events that are going to take place in the future. By 'casually', I mean that we are not stressing that the event must take place, nor do we give any indication about the probability of the event. We also do not use it in conditional (if-then) sentences.

  • Expressing a promise, a proposal, or a solemn plan:
Ik zal het nooit meer doen! I shall not do it again (I promise!)
Zal ik de afwas doen? Shall I do the dishes?
Ik zal daar geen genoegen mee nemen! I will not settle for that!
  • Stressing that something is bound to happen:
Je zult dat nog nodig hebben. You are going to need it.
Het zal niet makkelijk zijn. It will not be easy.
Daar zal niet veel van overblijven. There will not be much left of it.
  • Expressing that an event is likely going to take place by explicitly mentioning the probability.

The probabilities are written in blue.

Hij zal het waarschijnlijk morgen bekendmaken. He will probably announce it tomorrow.
Het zal morgen wel weer regenen. It will probably rain again tomorrow.
Je zult haar wel herkennen. You will probably recognize her.

We use the modal particle 'wel' for a variety of purposes (see also our forum topic internal link Nogmaals over zinnen met het woord wel). When we combine 'wel' with 'zullen', it means 'waarschijnlijk' (probably).

How do the Dutch usually refer to the future?

The Dutch often use the verb gaan instead of zullen. We could compare this with English going to . We use it:

  • to express an intended action (but no promise, proposal, or solemn plan);
  • to say that an event is going to take place (without stressing the certainty or mentioning the probability).
Ik ga vanavond pannenkoeken bakken. I am going to bake pancakes tonight.
Dit jaar gaan we nog veel leuke dingen doen. We are going to do many nice things this year.
Zij gaat morgen een liedje voor ons zingen. Tomorrow, she is going to sing a song for us.
Het gaat morgen regenen. It is going to rain tomorrow.

If the point in time that the event is going to take place is explicitly mentioned, we often use the simple present.

The adverbs of time are written in blue.

Ik bak vanavond pannenkoeken. Tonight, I will bake pancakes.
Dit jaar doen we nog veel leuke dingen. This year, we will do many nice things.
Ze zingt morgen een liedje voor ons. Tomorrow, she will sing a song for us.
We doen het de volgende keer samen. Next time, we will do it together.

Questions? Questions?
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Last updated on May 12, 2008 ::