My wife is Japanese and often asks for advice regarding English-language usage. I’m pretty good at knowing how to use English without necessarily being able to explain why a particular construction is correct, or what the terminology is that describes it. Example, I’ve been using past-perfect and future-perfect (and related constructs) for decades without knowing their names, or understanding why they were the correct thing to use. Lately I’ve been learning more about those whats and whys.
A new one came up yesterday. She was writing an email to a colleague and the question she asked was whether to say “I will meet with X tomorrow” or “I will be meeting with X tomorrow”. I felt that the latter was correct, but I couldn’t explain why.
So…why? When would you use one version versus the other? What are the names for these two different constructs?
I looked it up, and these are the “Future” form and something called the “Progressive” form.
In ordinary use, they’re really about the same. “I will drive up to my sister’s house. I will be taking her a bag of oranges.” How is this different from “I will be driving up to my sister’s house. I will take her a bag of oranges?” Functionally, same thing.
Even the Future Perfect would have the same working meaning. “I will have driven up to my sister’s house. I will have taken her a bag of oranges.” Most native speakers of English would not phrase it this way, but in operational terms, it’s still the same.
The Future Perfect is convenient for making it clear that something hasn’t already happened, but will be done by a certain time. “I haven’t written yet, but by Thursday, I will have written.”
It is a silly convention of American business English to use more and more abstract or passive constructions, I presume to feign erudition. “I will meet him” may seem too direct, too obvious. “I will meet with him” would be used solely to take up more syllables. This leads to “Bulwer-Lytton” style memos, many of which are unintentionally hilarious.
There is a meaningful difference between the two. “I will meet with X tomorrow” may mean that you know you will pass each other by in the hallway and exchange greetings. “I will be meeting with X tomorrow” means you will sit down and have a meeting with him.
Yup, simple future (will meet) vs. future progressive (will be meeting).
The only difference is that you would typically use the progressive aspect when describing something that will be ongoing (“I will be visiting my grandparents next month” vs. “I will visit my grandparents next month” - the first form at implies a longer stay, at least to my ears).
So for your example I’d say they are equivalent but if the meeting time is unspecified or the meeting could take up the whole day I’d use “will be meeting”.
On preview, I don’t really agree with the distinction Terr points out - to me the only connotative difference is that the progressive form implies a lack of specificity about the time and duration of the event.
I agree that there is a meaningful distinction between the two, but that isn’t the one I would make. The first refers to the meeting as a singular event whereas the second refers to it as a period of time or a concurrence of events. I would use them as responses to different types of questions.
“When are you going to meet with X?” “I will meet with X tomorrow.”
“Are you free tomorrow morning?” “No, I will be meeting with X tomorrow morning.”
And for good measure, “Are you free tomorrow afternoon?” “Yes, I will have met with X already.”
That said, I do hear the second often at work, because they like to make things unnecessarily wordy. Nevertheless, that’s my take on it.
Maybe I put it wrong, but that is what I meant. “I will meet with X.” implies a point in time. “I will be meeting with X” implies a period of time, not just one point. It is true that one may be (and often is) substituted for the other, but the stronger/weaker implication of period of time vs. point in time is there.
This is just my own experience but the way I’ve seen them used is
" I will meet with X tomorrow " usually means that X doesn’t know about the meeting or that no meeting has been scheduled yet. It’s a statement about my plans.
"I will be meeting with X tomorrow" means that X is aware of the meeting and there is some sort of schedule involved , although it may be a very loose schedule such as " sometime tomorrow"
And the progressive form can be used to refer to multiple events:
“I will be meeting with X three times next week because of the ongoing difficulties with the Grinch contract.” as opposed to “I will meet with X on Tuesday at 16:45 to discuss the Grinch contract; everything’s done, so it will be a brief formality.”
This, I feel, is the biggest distinction. “I will meet with somebody” implies a single meeting. “I will be meeting with somebody” can refer to a single meeting but it can also refer to a series of regular meetings.
This is complicated by the factor that there’s a difference between British English and American English regarding the verb “to meet”.
In BrE you normally just meet X. You only meet with X if the meeting is unplanned or coincidental - I arranged to meet X for a drink last night, but on my way to the pub I met with Y, and invited him to join us. Even in the unplanned context the transitive form is more common (“I met Y on my way to the pub”) but the intransitive form is used to emphasise that a meeting was unplanned.
In AmE, by contrast, my impression is that “I met with Y” is common for all meetings, whether planned or unplanned.
As to “I will meet/be meeting [with] Y”, there aren’t many contexts in which we can speak about future, but unplanned, meetings, so in BrE the options would normally be “I will meet Y” or “I will be meeting with Y”. Either is good, but I think the latter construction suggests a formal meeting. which is the main item on the agenda. “When I go to head office I will be meeting with the Chief Accountant” tells me that the meeting is the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the journey to head office. But “when I go to Grandma’s I will meet cousin Jane” tells me that cousin Jane is at Grandma’s, but not that my visit is for the purpose of meeting her.
… my head hurts after reading this … how am I ever going to learn english properly, if thing mean the same thing, but don’t necersarily do mean exactly the same while meaning something different arrgh!!
Although I can think of one small possible difference in this case - “I will meet” could imply that you have an intention to meet, but haven’t set an appointment. “I will be meeting with” includes the implication that you’ve confirmed the meeting with the other party.
There can be a subtle difference in connotation. To meet somebody simply says you were in somebody’s presence. To meet with somebody implies there was some level of exchange.
For example, if I said “I met Bill Clinton once” you might ask something like, “That’s nice. Did you get a chance to say hello?” But if I said “I met with Bill Clinton once” then the implication is I actually sat down with the President and we had a discussion.
This is exactly they way some speakers of English feel about other languages. Imagine the frustration of someone who’s only ever had to worry about singular and plural suddenly finding out there’s a whole different way to talk about things if there are two of them, but only two.
“I will + verb” is used to for speculative predictions (“it’ll rain tomorrow”), requests, (“will you help me?”), offers (“I’ll help you”), new decisions (“yes, I will meet with you”), and uncertain plans (often with “I think.” "I think I’ll meet with X tomorrow. ") Those are all tentative, not definite. You don’t use it for something you’ve already planned.
“I will be +ing verb” is used for definite plans. (It’s also used for speculative predictions that happen to require a continuous tense). That’s why it sounded more natural to you - your wife had already made plans, so it’s the right tense to use.
This is very slightly different to using the present continuous for the future - saying “I am meeting him at 10am” - because that implies that this is a really, really definite plan, probably with a meeting place booked. It’s easier to appreciate the difference if you think about travel; if you have a train ticket booked and paid for and definite plans to travel, “I am catching the 9am train” sounds more natural than “I will be catching the 9am train,” and “I will catch the 9am train” doesn’t work at all in that context.
(I’ve been teaching English as a Foreign Language for 18 years).
I’ve never heard of this at all. In fact, the opposite is true - if you meet with someone (in British English, at least; I’m British) that implies a planned meeting, whereas “meet” can be planned or unplanned. Maybe there’s a dialect difference. Both terms are transitive, in that they require an object; is that the term you meant to use?
With all due respect for your teaching experience, I completely disagree. [I’ve been speaking English as a native speaker for far longer than 18 years, and have been paid to communicate clearly in English. ]
‘I will+ infinitive’ is perfectly suitable for definite plans. No native speaker would find it strange to say “I will lock the door after I leave”. And no native speaker would naturally say “I will be locking the door after I leave”. UNLESS they need to emphasize locking the door as an ongoing action (“I will be locking the door, so I will need to have one hand free.” And note that nobody will say “I will be locking the door so I will be needing to have one hand free”).
The distinction between the two is that ‘I will’ is the simplest construction (and therefore should be used unless there’s a reason for an alternative) and generally refers to taking the action as a discrete event. ‘I will be’ is only used when it’s necessary to emphasize the ongoing nature of the action, the span of time it takes, or the state of the person doing the action.
“It will rain tomorrow” is just as definite as “It will be raining tomorrow”. But you’d only use the second one if you’re talking about a particular time (“Do you think it will rain tomorrow?” versus “Do you think it will be raining during recess?”)
In the very particular case of ‘to meet’, in some cases “I will be meeting” might have a tiny bit more definiteness that “I will meet” but that is only because “I will be meeting” emphasizes a span of time, which implies a definite span of time, wheras “I will meet” is less definite, and could refer to no firm plans.
But no intelligent native speaker who needs to communicate if something is definite would rely on that tiny implication in the verb form; they’d say “I will meet, but haven’t set it up with them yet” or “I will meet next Tuesday at 1:00”. And, again, this implication just isn’t there for most other verbs besides ‘to meet’.
Doughbag – I wish I knew enough German (that’s your native language?) to point out that the same subtleties are there, too.
With all due respect to your experience speaking English, I was surprised to find that I agree with SciFiSam. I’m not speaking academically, but simply as someone who’s 56 and lived in the US all my life, with doctorate-level parents, and generally surrounded by college graduates in professional and private life. (Including many who abuse language terribly.)
My understanding of the tenses was as given above, where the difference between “I will x” and “I will be xing” is one of duration or repetition implied in the second case.
But after considering SciFiSam’s post, I find (to my surprise, since I thought he was wrong) only examples that agree. Let’s take your example.
If i’m sitting in a room and the guy with the only key says “I’ll be locking the door when I leave, so if you go on a smoke break you won’t be able to get back in” that sounds more natural than “I’ll lock the door.”
The latter sounds more natural when someone asks “Who’ll lock the door?” and it’s a clear example of SFS’s post. Or “I WILL lock the door!” in response to someone suggesting carelessness.
This is an implication of tense that I had never considered, but one I find works very well with what sounds natural.