Today I have a rather long entry for you about the difference between two very similar terms: “will” and “going to”. In many cases, English speakers use either of these to express the future. However, there is a slight difference in nuance. The term “going to” gives the listener the idea that someone has made the decision to do something after giving it careful thought. The word “will” is used when we are a little uncertain or when there’s no time to think carefully about doing something in the future. For example:
This weekend my friend and I are going to see the U2 concert. We’ve been planning it for weeks.
I‘m going to go on a business trip next week. My boss told me about it a few days ago.
My sister is probably going to have her baby next week. She’s very excited.
In the first example, we use “going to” because the friends have already made the decision to see the concert. In the second example, we use it because the person has been aware of the business trip for a while, so it’s now an established plan. In the third example, we use it because we know that the sister will have the baby soon, and it’s expected. However, we could also use say, “My sister will probably have her baby next week.” because it’s uncertain about the timing, and the people can’t make a decision about when the baby will be born. So, in this case, both “will” and “going to” are fine.
Here are some more examples of how to use “will”:
I think I’ll go to the beach to relax this weekend.
A: The phone is ringing.
B: Don’t get up. I’ll answer it.
A: I need someone to write the report for the ABC project.
B: I’ll do it.
A: Are you ready to order?
B: Yes. I’ll have a sirloin steak and a baked potato please.
In the first example, we use “will” because of the word “think”. This shows the person is not completely certain, so a firm decision has not been made. Once the decision is made, the person would say, “I’m going to go to the beach to relax this weekend”. In the second example, the phone suddenly rings and there is no time for the person to think about whether or not to answer it. In these types of situations, we always use “will”. The third example is similar. The person has no time to think about volunteering, so he uses “will”. However, after this the person would say, “I’m going to write the report for the ABC project.” because the decision has been made firmly. In the last example, when we are ordering a meal from a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, we always use “will have”. This is a standard expression for ordering food. However, when we are buying something in a store, we use “will take” to talk about buying something. For example:
A: How may I help you?
B:I’ll take these two rings and this necklace please.
If we use “going to have” or “going to take” in a restaurant or store, it will sound strange. So we use “will have” and “will take” when we are talking to the staff member who works in that place. However, when we are talking to a friend or family member, we use “going to have” or “going to take”. For example:
A: Have you decided what you want for dinner?
B: Yes, I’m going to have a sirloin steak and a baked potato. Let’s call the waiter over.
A: Are you going to buy some jewelry?
B: Yes. I’m going to take these two rings and this necklace.
So, these are the basic differences between “will” and “going to”. It’s very complicated, so my advise, as always, is to memorize complete sentences and change the small details in order to create new sentences. In this way, you’ll start to understand when it’s appropriate to use “will” and when it’s appropriate to use “going to”. Good luck!