How to Talk About the Future in Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
How to Talk About the Future in Japanese

With the New Year celebrations behind us, it’s time to forget about our past mistakes and look forward to the future.

Talking about our New Year’s resolutions in Japanese isn’t so easy though. Mastering the future tense is as arduous as finishing an entire osechi bento including those… unidentifiable fishy bits.

One of the biggest problems with talking about the future tense in Japanese is that, one could argue, Japanese doesn’t really have a “proper” future tense like other languages.

A common example of this is 大学(だいがく)へ行(い)く which can mean anything from the present (I’m going to university [and am a student now]) to the future (I will go to university [and I am not a student now]).

Forming the future tense in Japanese with nouns

Japanese accomplishes a lot of what English accomplishes with “will” and “be going to” by attaching nouns instead of verbs to the verb in question.

The most commonly attached nouns are つもり (“intention”) and 予定よてい) (“plan”). For example, if there was likely to be any ambiguity about whether the speaker was talking about the present or the future when they said 大学へ行く they may add つもり to make 大学へ行くつもり (“I intend to go to university”) or 予定 to make 大学へ行く予定 (“I plan to go to university”), which may help to clear up any misunderstandings.

The ことに form

So far so good? Things get just a bit trickier when we want to project into the future. For that, we need to use the ことに forms. The most common of these are ことにする and ことになる.

ことにする implies you’ve “decided to” do something. In this case, you’ve made the decision (in the past) to do something (in the future). Make sense?

Let’s look at some examples.

  • 彼(かれ)の意見(いけん)を聞(き)くことにする = I will listen to his opinions
  • 私(わたし)は気(き)をつけることにする = I will be careful

Of course, this grammar can also be used …continue reading