How to use "can" in the future tense?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Vickyhere, Apr 16, 2008.

  1. Vickyhere Senior Member

    I know that could is used for past tense and for conditional tense. Though when I want use it in future tense, how have I use it?

    For example:

    I could come to your office tomorrow and so we could see again.

    Is the sentence in conditional or future tense?


    Thank you in advance
  2. nmkit Member

    USA English
    Hi Vickyhere,

    I would say " I can come to your office tomorrow so that we can meet again."
    This is the future tense. For the conditional I would say "I could come to your office tomorrow so that we might meet again."

    Hope this helps.
  3. Vickyhere Senior Member

    It has been great and so now you have confirmed me the correct way for the conditional by using might at the end of the sentence.

    And for the future I understand that I have to use the present simple whilst "tomorrow" gives the future tense to the sentence.

    Very helpful!
  4. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Actually, I believe this is the present tense. The future tense would be: "I will be able to come to your office tomorrow..."
  5. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    Vicky, this is a good site for practice with English verb tenses. Don't worry, they are difficult even for some native speakers. I wouldn't trust myself to give advice about some of the more complex tenses, and I taught English (but mostly literature) for a long time!
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I see this as a conditional construction with an unstated condition. The whole idea is something like: If you (were to) let me, I could come to your office tomorrow and so we could see each other again.

    Of course, the sentence refers to the future, so in that sense it is future tense! The English 'present' tense very often refers to the future; and the same certainly applies to conditional sentences such as this one.
  7. don_perez

    don_perez Senior Member

    Vicky wasn't entirely wrong. Teddy about nailed it on the head. You could say,

    "I can come to your office tomorrow so we can see each other again." and it would reflect the future tense, however that only is future tense because of the word tomorrow. The frase, "I can (verb) tomorrow" is stating that as of this moment you are able to do something tomorrow, so its assumed that you will be able to do that thing tomorrow as well. It's interesting, really :D
  8. ruffy

    ruffy Member

    Edinburgh, Scotland
    English & Scots
    Hi Vickyhere,

    "I could come..." is most definitely the Present Conditional - which, since I see you're Italian, would be the equivalent of "Potrei venire..." (Condizionale Presente)

    Adding modifying terms such as "tomorrow" still doesn't gramatically make the sentence the future tense - it just provides a time element that states when the conditional statement will be realised.

    The future tense in English is always given either by use of the auxiliary verbs "Will/Shall" or the use of the infinitive "be going to"
  9. Vickyhere Senior Member

    Thank you to everyone.

    All of your answers have been very useful!
  10. don_perez

    don_perez Senior Member

    Ruffy makes an excellent point. "I can go tomorrow" is a statement in the present tense, that states what you can do now, that applies to tomorrow. While the addition of the word "tomorrow" doesn't change the cuality of the tense, it is a general implication in casual english of the future tense, and more commonly used than "I will/shall be able to go tomorrow".

    "Will you be able to go to the movies tomorrow?"
    "Yes, I will be able to go to the movies tomorrow"


    "Can you go to the movies tomorrow?"
    "Yes, I can go to the movies tomorrow".

    The second set of phrases is what you're more likely to hear in everyday casual English. In a more formal situation, you'd be more likely to hear the former.
  11. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I agree that "can" is much more common than "will be able to" in the contexts given. I was just pointing out that the verb is not technically in the future tense.

    "I was going to go tomorrow" also refers to an event in the future, but the verb is in the past and reflects a condition in the past about the event in the future.

    "I can go tomorrow" refers to an event in the future, but it describes a current condition. At this point in time you are able to go tomorrow. Something may come up between now and then to change that.
  12. don_perez

    don_perez Senior Member

    Ah, well-said. :D I was looking for a way to say that very thing.
  13. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    So in your categories
    these are all future tense:
    - They will be there now.
    - They will be there tomorrow.
    - They are going to be there tomorrow.

    and these are all present tense:
    - They may be there now.
    - They may be there tomorrow.
    - They are to be there tomorrow.

    Is there any reason to put the dividing line between present and future tenses where you have put it, Ruffy, or is this dividing line entirely arbitrary?
  14. Vickyhere Senior Member

    The reason of my question is that a day I asked to some my colleague whether she could cover me in my day off. She answered me “Yes, I could…”. At beginning I though that she wanted say a condition and I waited for the condition but after few seconds without hear any more from her I asked to her again the same question. The answer was exactly the same though the sound was more strong then it was in the first time: “YES, I COULD!”

    From that day I thought that the future of can was could. And before to write something with this future tense I wanted checked in this forum.

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