Present continuous (future arrangements)
We often use the present continuous to talk about the future, especially about future plans when we have decided a time and a place with other people. We normally use a future time expression, e.g. tomorrow, next week, at 7, etc.
- I’m meeting Sally at 7. (=I have talked to her and we have arranged to meet.)
- I’m flying to New York tomorrow morning. (=I have the ticket.)
- We’re getting married next July. (=We have decided it an probably made reservations for the restaurant, etc.)
The present continuous for future arrangements is very common with verbs of travelling, and when we are meeting people.
- I’m leaving very early tomorrow. I’m taking the 7.30 train.
- I’m playing golf with Jack next Saturday. Would you like to come?
- I’m seeing the dentist after class.
Present continuous vs be going to
We can normally use the present continuous or be going to to talk about future plans.
- I’m leaving very early tomorrow.
- I’m going to leave very early tomorrow.
But we prefer using the present continuous when we have made arrangements (i.e. decided a place an time with somebody else). When use be going to, we put the emphasis on our intention to do something.
- I’m going to study for the exams tomorrow. (=it’s my intention)
- I’m leaving at 8 tomorrow. (=it’s an arrangement)
- ‘Your car is dirty.’ ‘I know. I’m going to wash it tomorrow.’ (=it’s my intention, but I haven’t arranged to do it)
will for decisions
Use will for decisions that you take at the moment of speaking (instant decisions).
- ‘Oh, we don’t have sugar.’ ‘Don’t worry, I’ll buy some.’
be going to or will for predictions
We use be going to or will (NOT present continuous) to make predictions about the future. (⇒ See Grammar points » A2 Grammar »
- I think he’ll win the election.
- The doctor said I’m going to have a girl.