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The Simple, or "one-word" Future Tense: Spanish Lesson Plan

By Eric W. Vogt

There are two ways of expressing the future in Spanish, just as there are in English. This lesson is about the one-word, or simple form in Spanish.

The Simple Future is Simple

Most students learn the periphrastic future, but (unfortunately) aren't told that it is called that. They are told that the periphrastic future is the equivalent of the going to + verb form of English and that works just fine -- for a while. In the middle or latter part of the year, they are often bombarded with many tenses and when they find the simple future, they feel they can do without it. In fact, I have heard of many teachers simply omitting it, with the view that it is superfluous if they know the ir + a + infinitive construction. Somehow, they equate verbal poverty with economy -- to the detriment of their students.

The simple future is one of the easiest tenses to learn -- and it prepares the way, if nothing else, for the conditional, whose irregular verbs are the same.

The first thing to do when teaching this tense is to review the periphrastic future, very briefly. You can ask how to say I am going to study or She is going to run, etc. and draw out their knowledge of the ir + a + infinitive structure -- and its parallels to the English form.

Next, ask them if there is another way to form a future tense in English (answer: will or shall + infinitive). Tell them that Spanish, although it does not have a word for will or shall as a helping verb, does address the need with endings on verbs -- so they are going to learn a new tense. After they finish groaning about it, tell them that there is a lot of good news about this tense.

First, there is one set of endings for all verbs (-AR/-ER/-IR) and that there are only a few verbs that are irregular -- and even then, they use the same endings.

Write the simple futures of hablar, comer and vivir on the board, in the six-hole paradigm and then ask them what they notice (answer: the endings are added to the infinitives). Point out the endings (-é, -ás, -á; -emos, -éis, -án) and ask them what they notice about them (answer: accents on all but the nosotros forms).

Finally, write the infinitives of the verbs that have irregular (I prefer to say altered or modified) infinitives when forming the simple future. They should be displayed as follows:

decir > dir-

hacer > har-


poner > ponder-

salir > saldr-

tener > tender-

valer > valdr-

venir > vendr-


caber > cabr-

haber > habr-

querer > querr-

saber > sabr-

poder > podr-

Finally, point out that these few verbs are high-frequency -- they are often needed (with the exception of caber), so they need to know them (promise a quiz for the next class dealing with these and the regulars). Also point out that the first two are simply "crazy" -- they have to memorize them. But the second group ends its stem with an N or L -- and all of them insert a D before the R (or you can say, substitute the vowel of the infinitive). The last group "collapses" the infinitive by removing the infinitive ending's vowel.

End the lesson with an oral drill, including regulars and irregulars. Give them very short phrases (she will eat, they will put, etc.). After about two or three minutes, erase the board, have them close their books and see how well they do from memory. Prompt them or pass on to another student when one is stuck. Keep your word about the written quiz.