Many ESL students are confused about “will” and “going to.” Both are used to indicate future events. But their connotations are slightly different.
going to: "going to" is used when a person has already decided to do something. After you have made your plans to do this or that, you use “I’m going to …” when you tell somebody about your future.
will: "will" is used at the moment you have made your decision. For example, someone might say, “The phone is ringing.” You could respond, “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.” You would not say, “I’m going to get it,” because you did not make your decision until the phone started to ring.
Another example: Someone asks, “Who wants to go with me to the store after lunch?” Up until now you had not considered doing that. But after someone asks you, you think that it would be something you are interested in doing. So you decide to go along, and you respond, “I will.”
If some other person asks you (even only 5 minutes later), “What are you doing after lunch?” you would then respond: “I am going to the store.” You would not say, “I will go to the store.” Why? Because your decision was already made before the other person asked.
Here are some more situations where “will” is used instead of “going to”:
Person A: It’s cold in here.
Person B: I’ll turn up the heat.
Person A: We need some more milk and eggs.
Person B: I’ll go to the store later today and pick some up.
Person A: I’m bored. I think I’ll go for a walk.
Person A: You look hungry. I’ll fix you a sandwich.
Person A: The roads are so snowy and icy today, I don’t think we’ll go to the museum.
Exercise: In the following sentences, choose either “will” or “going to” to make an appropriate sentence.
I’m tired, so I think I (will / am going to) go to bed. ==>
I’m tired, so I think I will go to bed.
A: What are you doing tomorrow night?
B: We (will / are going to) go out for dinner and watch a movie. ==>
We are going to out for a dinner and watch a movie.
1. It snowed a lot overnight. I (will / am going to) shovel the driveway before I go to work.
A: I have a ton of work to do.
B: That’s all right. We (will / are going to) help you.
3. I’m confused. I think I (will / am going to) ask Sam to explain these instructions to me.
A: Have you done your homework yet?
B: No, I (will / am going to) do it later, I think.
5. I’m tired. I think I (will / am going to) skip exercising today.
A: (Will you do / Are you going to do) anything this weekend?
B: No, I (will / am going to) stay home and get caught up on my reading.
7. Someone’s at the door. (Will you / Are you going to) answer it?
A: What are you doing after lunch?
B: I (will / am going to) go ice skating. Want to come?
9. Mother likes flowers, so I think we (will / are going to) get her a colorful bouquet for her birthday.
A: This room’s a mess.
B: Don’t worry – I (will / am going to) clean it up.
11. Do you know how expensive that wine is? If we buy that for the party, it (will / is going to) cost a fortune!
A: We’re having a potluck this Saturday.
B: Okay. I (will / am going to) bring a salad.
13. I’ve finished reading my library books. I think I (will / am going to) return then and get some more.
A: Why are you baking so many cookies?
B: I (will / am going to) gift wrap plates of cookie and give them away as presents.
15. We didn’t get a Christmas tree this year. We (will / are going to) get one next year, okay?
A: The car’s low on gas.
B: I (will / am going to) fill it up on my way to the store.
17. I’m hot. I think I (will / am going to) go swimming to cool off.
A: The plants need watering.
B: I (will / am going to) do it as soon as I’m done washing these dishes.
19. I (will / am going to) give you a call tomorrow, okay?
A: I have a taste for pretzels.
B: I (will / am going to) bake some.