The Future Tenses in Spanish: el Presente Simple
I don’t know about you, but I love dreaming and making plans. Daydreaming is quite possibly my favorite pastime, and I talk about my hopes for the future all the time. A lot of our culture is about planning for the future – saving money, getting an education for a good job, outlining 5 and 10-year plans. We are always looking towards the future!
Since future plans make up such a big part of our life and conversation, we need to be able to talk about them in whatever language we are learning. In Spanish, we can use a couple of different tenses to talk about the future. If you have not already, check out our first two blogs on the future tenses: futuro simple + futuro próximo.
With this blog, we are going to go over a tense that is technically not a future tense but is commonly used as such.
The Simple Present
Yes, you read that correctly. We often use the simple present to talk about future plans! Before we get into when and how we use it, I want to go over the basics of conjugating verbs in the present simple just to refresh your memory. Please note that there is a lot more to talk about regarding the present simple (like stem-changing verbs and irregulars), but that’s for another blog.
I hope that all looks familiar! Now comes the big question – how do we use this to talk about the future?
How do we use it?
There is one big idea that encompasses the uses of the simple present in the future: set plans.
If you remember from our other blogs about the future tenses, none of them were used for set plans. The futuro próximo is used for plans in the making and intentions, but not for things set in stone. The futuro simple is also used for intentions, but still not for set plans.
Whenever we have a plan completely established, we can use the present simple. Think of it this way. If you got accepted to college for the coming fall and you finally have everything packed, all the paperwork is done, and financial aid is set up, you would say it was certain you were going. Of course, things happen that can’t be foreseen. However, based on what we know and what we can plan, everything is set for you to go to college. How would you express your plans for the fall?
I will go to college in a couple of months.
I’m going to college in a couple of months.
More than likely, you would use the second sentence as it expresses much more certainty. Wait, though. That’s the present continuous, not the present simple!
If you remember from our last future blog, the uses of the present simple and present continuous in English and Spanish are not as similar as you may think. We often use the present simple in Spanish when we would use the present continuous in English.
The present continuous in Spanish is used for things happening in this exact moment, while the English present continuous extends to plans we have in the future.
We’re going to Colombia in January.
Vamos a Colombia en enero.
I’m going to college in the fall.
Voy a la universidad en el otoño.
Can you see how these are set plans in the future? We often express this idea in English with the present continuous, but in Spanish it would be the present simple.
Some set plans are not always represented with the present continuous in English, however.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Te miro mañana.
This is a very common statement, and this was actually my first introduction to this idea of using the presente simple for future plans. I often use the futuro simple to express set future plans, but I was translating directly from English and it was incorrect. I would say things like:
Te miraré mañana.
While this is definitely understandable, it does not accurately convey what I meant. This sentence is saying that it is my intention to see you tomorrow, not a set plan. To express a set plan, we need to use the presente simple – Te miro mañana.
There is yet another way to translate the presente simple into English.
Ella se casa el 17 de diciembre.
She gets married on December 17th.
Woah! We’re using the simple present in both English and Spanish! Sometimes it makes sense to use the simple present in English for things in the future. Here, we are looking at an event completely set in stone – the venue is booked, the caterer hired, the dress bought. Everything is set up and she is definitely getting married.
Using the presente simple to express things in the future is pretty straightforward in Spanish: use it to talk about set plans. However, the tricky part comes in when you are trying to talk about a set plan that would be talked about using a different tense in English. Something that will help you overcome this translation hurdle is to stop translating! Yes, you read that right. Stop thinking of the sentence in English first and translating it to Spanish. You are more likely to make mistakes trying to literally translate.
Yes, yes, I know. This is a lot easier said than done. I’ve been there, and I can tell you from experience that when you embrace the idea of not trying to translate everything and understand word-by-word what things mean, your understanding of the Spanish language will deepen and your conversational skills will flourish.
This requires a large learning curve, though, and a lot of patience. The first step can be practicing using the presente simple for future things! Remember that in Spanish, we use it to talk about set plans in the future. Don’t think about how sometimes it’s translated to English with the present continuous, sometimes with the present simple, and sometimes with the future simple. Embrace it for what it is in Spanish alone!
To help you in this process, try a FREE trial class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers. Practice your future tenses with them and have trial conversations! ¡Aprende más!