• past-present-future- traditional tenses written on a blackboard - the old warped view of tenses - in jumbled order. This traditional way of looking at English tenses is confusing!

Do we really say, “Tomorrow will be Friday”?

Tomorrow will be Friday. It’s a simple English sentence. Sentences like this are very common in English language teaching, but is this something a native English speaker would typically say?


Early in a child’s study, they are taught the days of the week. Teaching the days of the week often includes drilling questions and answers like this:

“What day is it today?” “Today is Thursday.”

“What day was it yesterday?” “Yesterday was Wednesday.”

“What day will it be tomorrow?” “Tomorrow will be Friday.”

Any student in a class like this would think that this is how native speakers typically talk about days of the week.

It’s not.

The more natural sentence is:

“What day is it tomorrow?” “Tomorrow is Friday.”

Many teachers have been asking questions like “What day will it be tomorrow?” for as long as they can remember. But, if we stop and think, when do people actually say, “Tomorrow will be Friday”?

Well, it is possible, but quite unusual.

This raises the question of what we teach. Do we teach what the book says is “correct”, or teach the language that people use in everyday life? My students want to develop skills to communicate with people in real life.

So, what sentences do people usually use?


People typically say: “Tomorrow is Friday.”

“Tomorrow is Friday” is the more common sentence, used in most situations. Here is some data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

tomorrow is...day / tomorrow will be...day frequency graph

In real life tomorrow will be… is not usually used to simply express what day it is tomorrow.

98% of the examples use Tomorrow is… to refer to a day of the week. These sentences simply say what day tomorrow is:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Death At A Funeral opens in theaters tomorrow, tomorrow’s Friday, TGIF.

CHRIS ROCK: Tomorrow’s Friday, yeah.

Even when we’re not talking about days, Tomorrow is… is far more common and useful than Tomorrow will be…


tomorrow will be... tomorrow is... frequency graph

The examples of tomorrow will be… in COCA typically refer to predictions or decisions for tomorrow, such as:

Tomorrow will be a good/better day. – prediction
Tomorrow will be a day of (mourning/prayer). – decision


Although will is less common in the sentences and graphs above, it is a very useful word in English. So when teaching, we should provide students with examples of how will is really used. In English there are many expressions that are used when talking about the future. When we give students authentic examples, they can develop a sense of how people use will and what it really means.

Learning real-life English

If the student’s goal is to communicate with people in real life, it makes sense for the teacher to teach the English that people use in real life.

But teachers also need teaching resources. Many teachers tend to grab a book and teach from it. “Tomorrow will be…” is in textbooks, so many teachers accept it and teach it.

And this make sense. It is a perfectly grammatical sentence and people understand what you are trying to say if you use it.

But is it what people say?

Think about your own experiences with English. Look at the data above or go to a corpus and have a look for yourself. Is it common to use “tomorrow will be…” to simply refer to what day tomorrow is?

When the goal is to speak with other English speakers in real life, it makes sense to learn and use the same structures that people commonly use.

Getting the basics right

People use sentences the way they do because it makes sense to them to do so. It fits in with their understanding of how the language works.

When students practice basic sentences as they are naturally used, it helps them develop their own sense of how the language works.

After learning vocabulary or a grammar point in class, it often doesn’t really stick until we encounter people using it naturally.

I know that for me (learning Japanese), I often see people use what I learn and think “ah, so that’s how they do it!” Seeing this gives me confidence to use the structure myself.

But when the grammar that students are taught in class and real-life English doesn’t match, it only causes problems. It is hard to make the connection between what we learn and what people say.

We shouldn’t be surprised that many students have trouble making sense of English tenses and other grammar, because they’re often fed strange sentences from the beginning of their studies that simply don’t match real-world usage.

A misunderstanding at the basic level is likely to cause bigger problems as students progress in their studies. Students will have trouble understanding more complex grammar simply because they haven’t understood the basics.

If a structure doesn’t fit the situation, so why lead students to believe that it does?

We can continue to follow tradition and teach will as a future tense marker, but at what cost?

Looking for a good grammar book that gets the basics right?

Grammar helps people understand each other better.

If you are interested in a grammar book that looks at common parts of English sentences and what they mean, and how people often use them (like will on this page), be sure to check out Real Grammar.

With Real Grammar you understand grammatical meaning. Grammatical meaning helps you understand more of what people say in English.

Real Grammar is grammar for communication.

Get the book - Real Grammar: Understand English. Clear and simple.


Here is a chart for presenting yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and the days of the week to young learners. The sentences are simple and are what people usually use in everyday life.

 yesterday was, today is, tomorrow is: A chart for teaching the days of the week


  • comment-avatar
    urthcreature January 24, 2023 (2:27 am)

    Yes these are all interesting points of idiomatic language for native speakers and advanced students but pointing out every anomaly and exception is just needlessly confusing for beginning students. No wonder the poor student who was parroting this stuff to me was so confused. Yes there definitely is a future tense in English formed with will + base verb or be + going to + base verb. Then it is usually explained that native speakers also often use present simple and present progressive forms to express the future (for future plans, scheduled things, and also within dependent clauses like “When you get here, I will be at the office.”) A student read this article and others like it and actually thought the future forms (will/be going to) can always be replaced with the present forms and that English doesn’t have a present tense. Imagine: Where do you think you’ll be living in ten years? “I live here in ten years.” “I am still living here in ten years.” What do you think the future will be like? Will our houses be the same? What will cities be like in 2050? What condition will the planet be in? Answers with present and present progressive: I think the future is probably really different. Cities change a lot by 2050. The planet is possibly in worse condition. (There definitely is a future tense in English and we do often use the future tense to describe it.)

    Grammar “Rules” have always been descriptions of language patterns in a language that provide learners with a shortcut to understanding the language. Learning grammar solely by ear without these handy shortcuts just takes longer. That’s the point of them. Many language students enjoy knowing the architecture of the language just out of interest and because it enhances understanding and the ability to use the language.

    • comment-avatar
      Eldridge Carl January 27, 2023 (2:55 am)

      Yes, for beginners we want to keep things simple. The question is, are they better off following a traditional rule or practicing the phrases that are most commonly used by expert speakers? I don’t see any harm in telling a beginner to say “Tomorrow is Friday”. If we practice “Tomorrow will be Friday” it is likely that students will form a misunderstanding and assume that ‘will’ is always used when talking about the future, and the student will also assume that this is how people usually talk – when in fact it may seem strange.

      These are only anomalies and exceptions if you say that ‘will’ marks a future tense. If you look at phrases and what they mean, these anomalies and exceptions simply disappear because our new understanding covers these uses as well.

      Students are often confused because they get differing information. Some grammar books tell them about a future tense, so they think they need to use ‘will’ when talking about the future, but then they also encounter natural English and notice that expert speakers often talk about the future without ‘will’.

      And as you say, descriptions of grammar are a helpful shortcut. Beginners can practice everyday phrases about the future that use the present simple, like the ones in the article and other useful phrases for discussing timing of fixed future events (timetables, schedules, etc.) Then we can introduce the situations you mentioned with ‘will’. The student can see the meaning that ‘will’ adds and why this meaning is appropriate in the situation: there are possibilities and the speaker is making a prediction. (I like to draw time as a path. When we talk about a fixed future, it is a single path. When there is an unknown future, there is a fork in the road and we can choose which way we go. We then look at decisions and predictions with ‘will’) In this way ‘will’ implies future when no time is stated. If I decide or predict now, I do it later (in the future).

      We want to describe the language to help them understand, but focusing on a future tense can cause confusion because it doesn’t apply to every situation. There are many phrases that can be used when talking about the future (some use ‘will’, others don’t), and ‘will’ is also sometimes used when talking about the present. If we say ‘future tense’ are we providing the student with an accurate explanation?

      The important thing is that students understand English as it is used, and as teachers we can provide more information to them to make sure they have a clear understanding, and help them through any misunderstandings about meaning and usage they may have. Let’s keep it simple. We can address basic questions without getting caught up in terminology, formulas and linguistic theory. What meaning does ‘will’ contribute? Why is ‘will’ useful when we talk about the future?