Future In The Past

Have you heard of future past? In today’s class, your dreams are going to come true. We are going to time travel! Can you think of a time last year, and think of where you thought you would be right now? You’ve just time travelled, and hopefully you thought of a sentence in the future past. Confused? Don’t worry, this blog post will show you how to use the future past.

We use future in the past to talk about something in the past that you thought would happen in the future (it doesn’t matter if it actually happened or not). So how do we make a sentence to show we thought something would happen in the future? There are two ways:

Forming Future Past

 1. would + (base verb)

  • example: I thought you would help him.
  • meaning: I thought you would help him (with his homework), maybe you did help him/maybe you didn’t help him.
  • example: He promised he would send a postcard from Hawaii.
  • meaning: He said (or he promised) that he would send a postcard to me from Hawaii, maybe he did/didn’t.

2. was/were + going to + (base verb)

  • exampleI knew you were going to the concert.
  • meaningI thought that you were going to go to the concert and you DID go. (When you use ‘knew’ it is to show you were correct with your prediction).
  • example: I thought he was going to crash the car, he was driving so fast!
  • meaningHe was driving dangerously, I thought he was going to crash the car, but he didn’t.

We use both of these forms in slightly different ways. Would + (base verb) is mostly used to show a voluntary action, promise or to make a prediction:

  • Voluntary action: I knew Eric would make dinner tonight.
  • Promise: She promised that she would come to my party.
  • Prediction: I thought it would be a disaster.

When we use was/were + going to + (base verb), we are talking about a plan or a prediction:

  • Plan: David said that he was going to bring his camera with him, but he forgot.
  • Prediction: I had a feeling that it was going to be a disaster.

Future Past Listening Exercise

Now that we have studied how to make future in the past sentences, let’s practice using them. Try to complete these sentences. At the beginning of the sentence, I have written either volunteer, promise, plan or prediction. That indicates what type of sentence to write (would + verb or was/were + going to + verb).

Example: (prediction)  I thought that there _would be _ cars before the 1930s.

  1. (promise) They promised I would ______________ before 1960.
  2. (prediction) They thought there ________________ helicopter trains in 1940.
  3. (plan) He told you there _________________ lots of cars in 2000.

Great work! You may have noticed in these sentences that I placed time expressions at the end of the sentence. This is because in all future forms, time expressions cannot be at the beginning of the sentence. You must use the past simple if you have a time expression at the beginning of the sentence- look below:

As soon as I would arrive at the restaurant, I would order a pizza. Incorrect

As soon as I arrived at the restaurant, I would order pizza. Correct (past simple)

Future Past Gap Fill Exercise

You’re doing great! We just have one exercise left. Identify if there is a time expression, and then use either the past simple or the Future in the Past (would +verb or was/were going to +verb) to complete the sentence with the verb in the parenthesis ( ). As always, write your answers in the comment section and we will give you some feedback!

  1. (Husband and wife talking on the phone. Husband at football match, wife at home) “Before you _____________ (go) to the football match, I _________________ (make) you some lunch.

2. They promised that they ______________ (come) to my birthday party, but no one came!

3. By the time he  ______________(arrive), it ___________ (be) too late.


That is the end of today’s class, we hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. If you want to continue improving your English skills, sign up for a free 25-minute class today!