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Structure: ‘Future in the past’

What is the ‘future in the past’?

When we speak in English we normally think about the future from our current perspective. That is, we think about the future from now.

I’m going to arrive at the airport at 10am

However, sometimes we wish to think about the future from a past perspective, to talk what your (future) plan was last week. Let’s look at how we can make this structure.

We were going to fly our glider last Saturday, but the weather wasn’t good enough.

To construct this sentence we use ‘be’ in the past and ‘going to + infinitive’.

Let’s imagine we say this sentence on Monday after the planned event. In this sentence it was our plan (before) last Saturday to fly our glider on Saturday. So we are indicating our plan from a past perspective.

This structure is very commonly used when your plan doesn’t happen, or if it changes, as in our example above, the plan was to fly, but because of the weather it didn’t happen. Have a look at the following examples.

  • The flight was going to land in Sao Paulo, but it had to divert due to a medical emergency.
  • The captain was going to perform the flight, but he felt sick and had to stay at home.
  • The maintenance was going to be done on Friday, but the part needed didn’t arrive so it was rescheduled.

In these examples the plan was disrupted by a past simple action and didn’t happen in the end.

Now try to write some examples of your own.

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