Posted by: Andy | October 18, 2010

No Plans

One of the most difficult things to teach in English grammar is the difference between ‘going to’ future and ‘will’ future.  It is mainly difficult because as native speakers we understand that there really isn’t that much of a difference.  Turkish students hate this and no matter how many times they review the differences, they still always want to say ‘will’ and never say ‘going to’.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a basic rundown.

We use ‘going to’ when we’re talking about:
1. Plans – I’m going to visit my grandmother tomorrow.
2. Prediction from evidence – It is going to rain.

We use ‘will’ when we’re talking about:
1. Promises – I will always love you.
2. Sudden Decisions – Oh, it’s raining.  I’ll take an umbrella. 
3. Offers – I will help you.
4. Requests – Will you help me?
5. Opinions – I think you will like this book.

In my opinion, predictions and opinions are completely interchangeable, so we are left with plans as the only time when people need to use ‘going to’.  I asked one of our Turkish friends today why Turkish people refuse to use ‘going to’ and always use ‘will’.  “Because Turkish people never make plans,” he said.  What a profound statement.

Turkish people don’t make plans.  In everything they do they say the equivalent of God willing.  Even if they have every intention on following through with something, they still don’t like to make plans. 

So when I ask  a student, “What are you going to do tonight?”  They tend to respond with.  “Maybe I will watch TV.”

So then I have to teach them “Maybe I will…” is better said as “I may/might…”, but that’s another story.

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Responses

  1. Is this something that is easy to express in Turkish?

    After reading Stranger in a Strange Land I’ve become interested in the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, and if Turkish as a language doesn’t lend itself towards planning, then this might be reflected back onto the culture, causing your students to become less able to learn how to express the idea in any language at all.

  2. Our Present Continuous (I’m going to…) is their most common tense – you use it frequently, so it’s not used for futures so much. Their future would work, but they also have a popular “wants/desires” suffix.

    You could either say “I will go to bed early tonight” or “I want to go to bed early tonight”. Either will be followed by the “God willing”

    Our friend was having a Turkish woman babysit once. She said “Can you come next Friday at noon?” and the woman replied “Maşallah” – she wouldn’t give our friend a direct yes/no she could/couldn’t.

    • On your babysitting story, I think you mean ‘Inşallah’. I have it on very good authority that the Arab use of the word ‘Inşallah’ is a nice way of saying that something ‘probably won’t happen’. Sooo should you need some house repairs completed, and the contractor says he’ll have it finished by the end of the week at the agreed cost + ‘Inşallah’, mental warning bells should go off. :))

      • Thanks for the clarification, Jason! I’ll be sure to remember that next time I need house repairs. 🙂

  3. […] because Americans tend to not follow the grammar rules.  I talk about those with more depth in this post.  Regardless of what I teach or how adamant I am, students will always use will to talk about the […]


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