How to indicate the future tense in Japanese?

One of the things that scares me when studying Japanese, is the fact that there is no future tense in it. Verbs are conjugated only in the present and in the past. So the big question remains: How can I indicate the future? How do I know if a sentence is indicating future? In this article, these doubts will be answered.

In reality, verbs are conjugated in the future, the problem is that the basic form of all verbs is present and future at the same time. So it is by the context of the sentence that you will know if a sentence is in the present or in the future. Japanese verbs are always ending the sentence, and in a large number of these sentences the verb does not need to be conjugated.

Why is there no future tense in Japanese?

This is a complicated answer to answer. But if we stop to think, isn't the present time always in motion? It is easier to ask why there are so many verb tenses many different.

The Japanese verb in its simple form indicates neither present nor future. It can indicate anything like, an action that will happen, that is repeated, that happens regularly, at a certain time, in the future, etc.


To indicate that an action is taking place at this moment, we must use its progressive form teiru [ている]. So it is more correct to say that there is no present time and the simple form is the future time.

How to indicate the future tense in Japanese?

In English you may have heard someone using a present verb in a sentence that indicates the future (Example: I come tomorrow). In reality the verb is almost never necessary to indicate the time of the action, always the context or some word of the sentence will indicate this.

The Japanese uses adverbs, intent, and other indications to show that the action will happen in the future or at a certain time. See some examples of verb conjugations below:

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
Past映画を見たeiga wo mitaI watched a movie
Now映画を見ているeiga wo miteiruWatching a movie
Not future映画を見るeiga wo miruWatch a movie
Invitation映画を見ようeiga wo aimedLet's see a movie
Intention映画を見るだろうeiga wo mirudarouYou will see the movie
Tomorrow明日は映画を見るashita wa eiga wo miruWatch the movie tomorrow
I intend to映画を見るつもりeiga wo miru tsumoriI want to see a movie

The verb [見る] can be translated as seeing, watching, looking ...

How to indicate the future tense in Japanese?

Indicating future in the Japanese language

You can use the adverbs of time or dates and times to indicate when an action is taken. You can use words like tomorrow, next year, next week, at a certain time, in the future.


You can indicate an intention to do a certain action, such as: I intend tsumori [つもり], or use the volitional form of the verb. Or indicate that you are thinking using the verb omou [思え].

Another way to know if a sentence is in the future is by the context of the sentence. If someone asks you, what are you going to do tomorrow or later? You can simply respond with a sentence using the simple form of the verb (not past). It is obvious that you are indicating an action in the future.

See the examples below:

Responsive Table: Roll the table sideways with your finger >>
私は四時に来るWatashi wa yo-ji ni kuruI come at four
明日はいい天気でしょうAshita wa ī tenkideshouTomorrow the weather will be fine
 あなたは来年篠山に住むつもりですか。Anata wa rainen Sasayama ni sumu tsumoridesu ka. You will live in Sasayama next year.
 その仕事にすぐ慣れるだろう。Sleep shigoto ni sugu narerudarou. You'll soon get used to work.
 今日仕事が終わったら、僕らみんなで野球するんだ。Kyō shigoto ga owattara, bokura min'na by yakyū suru nda. Let's play baseball today after work.
 今晩何も食べないKonban nani mo tabenai I won't eat anything tonight / Don't eat anything tonight
 夏休みに日本へ行こうと思っています。Natsuyasumi ni Nihon and ikou to omotte imasu. I'm thinking of going to Japan for the summer holidays.
 映画に行くつもりです。Eiga ni iku tsumoridesu. I'm going to the cinema.
 私達の先生は8月に外国から帰ってきます。Watashitachi no sensei wa rokugatsu ni gaikoku kara kaette kimasu. Our teacher will be back from abroad in August.
 将来は、ジャーナリストになりたいと思っています。Shōrai wa, jānarisuto ni naritai to omotte imasu. In the future, I would like to be a journalist.
十時半の電車に乗ります。Jū-jihan no densha ni norimasu.You take the 10:30 train.

We note the use of deshou [でしょう] which indicates a guess, a assumption or speculation. 


It is easy to get used to the fact that verbs do not have a given future or present tense. Over time you will not even miss or see any difference in your daily life when speaking and studying Japanese. I hope this article has helped you to understand why there is no future tense in Japanese verbs and how to adapt to it.