The Future of Can and Must

When you want to talk about the future in English, there are multiple ways of doing this. You could use the will-future or going to-future, or you could also use a future form of the modal verbs ‘can’ and ‘must’ to express future meaning. This article is a complete overview of the future of can and must.

If you want a complete overview of the different ways to talk about the future in English, click here.

The future of can and must

When you want to talk about the future of can and must, you should use a specific structure, depending on the meaning you want to express. Can and must don’t have an infinitive form, which implies that it’s impossible to use the will-future and going to-future with these verbs because you need ‘will + infinitive’ or ‘going to + infinitive’.

There are some structures you can use to talk about can and must in the future. You have an overview below of the different structures and when to use them. Each form is explained further in this article.

Can expresses ability/no abilitywill be able to / won’t be able to
Can expresses permissionwill be allowed to
Must expresses obligationwill have to
Cannot and must express prohibitionwon’t be allowed to
When there is no obligationwon’t have to / won’t need to

Here is another overview of the difference between these verbs in the present and future. The future of can and must should become clear after studying this overview.

PresentFuture
can (ability)will be able to
‘ll be able to
cannot (no ability)will not be able to
won’t be able to
can (permission)will be allowed to
‘ll be allowed to
must (obligation)will have to
‘ll have to
cannot (prohibition)will not be allowed to
won’t be allowed to
must not (prohibition)will not be allowed to
won’t be allowed to
Future of can and must Taalhulp Engels

Can or cannot expresses ability or no ability

When you want to express ability or no ability in the future, you use the following structure:

ability: will be able to

no ability: won’t be able to

Some examples:

You will be able to have visitors again.
We won’t be able to go to school because of the snow.

Can expresses permission

When you want to express permission in the future, you can use the following structure:

will be allowed to

Some examples:

You will be allowed to use your phone.
You will be allowed to go to the restroom.

Must expresses an obligation

When you want to express an obligation in the future, you use:

will have to

Some examples:

You will have to be on time.
We will have to pay.

Can’t and mustn’t express a prohibition

When you want to express a prohibition, you use:

won’t be allowed to

Some examples:

You won’t be allowed to make a call.
We won’t be allowed to eat too much.

No obligation

When there is no obligation, you can use:

won’t have to

won’t need to

Some examples:

You won’t have to pay.
We won’t need to listen.

Exercises

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