Referring to the future in German


The future tense in German is formed with the verb werden:

Wirst du in Zukunft öfters im Ausland arbeiten? Will you be working abroad more often in future?
Wir werden uns wahrscheinlich verspäten. We will probably be delayed.
Note that there is also another less frequently used future tense in German, the future perfect tense.

Formation of the future tense

The future tense is constructed with the present tense form of the auxiliary verb werden + the infinitive of the relevant verb:

Ich werde den Zug versäumen. I shall/will miss the train.
Du wirst dich morgen besser fühlen. You will feel better tomorrow.
Werden Sie zur Party kommen? Will you come to the party?
Er wird das gleich erledigen. He will deal with it at once.
Wir werden heute anfangen. We shall/will start today.
Ihr werdet alles erfahren. You will find out everything.
Werden Sie tanzen gehen? Will you go dancing?
Was werden sie sagen? What will they say?

Note that werden is an irregular verb and changes its stem vowel in the du and er/sie/es forms.

Usage and functions

The future tense is used less frequently in German than in English. If the context makes the reference to the future clear the present tense is normally used instead. However, the future tense still occurs in the following instances:

• When the reference to the future is not clear:
Tim wird wieder in Köln wohnen.
Tim will be living in Cologne again.

The alternative in the present tense Tim wohnt wieder in Köln would be understood as ‘Thomas is now living again in Cologne’.

• When stating intentions or to emphasise a point:
Ich werde nie wieder den Bus nehmen!
Never again will I take the bus!
Ich werde die Miete morgen bezahlen.
I will pay the rent tomorrow.

• To make predictions and to convey the meaning of probability or assumption, often in conjunction with bestimmt ‘surely’, wahrscheinlich ‘probably’, möglicherweise ‘possibly’, vielleicht ‘maybe’, wohl ‘probably’:

Morgen wird es regnen.
It’s going to rain tomorrow.
Es wird bestimmt nicht lange dauern.
Surely it won’t take long.
Das wird wahrscheinlich funktionieren.
That will probably work.
Ich werde vielleicht kommen.
Maybe I will come