Are there any examples of languages where a dedicated future tense is always required when referring to events that take place in the future and using a non-future, present, or past tense is always ungrammatical?

There's probably at least one such language, but I'm wondering if there's a standard or elegant example of a language that strictly distinguishes future and non-future reference with its verbs.

English has a tense frequently referred to as the future tense, used in sentences like I will go.

However, it is possible to use the present (or perhaps nonpast) tense in English to refer to events in the future.

My flight leaves tomorrow.

Events that took place in the past seem to require a past tense.

*My flight leaves yesterday.

French has an inflectional future tense, but allows the present tense to be used to refer to events taking place in the future. I'm taking my example from another question on this site.

Je déménage demain.

2 Answers 2


A candidate language is Logoori. IMO the reason why it is a candidate is that it doesn't seem to have a bare present tense. There is a habitual tense and an immediate past tense, which do the heavy lifting of conveying English presents. Neither of these tenses can be used to refer to a future event, and do not combine with an adverb that implies some future time. Logoori contrasts with Kerewe, which has a "simple present" tense that is distinct from the habitual, which is generally used for e.g. "I like fish", "I want a beer", and which can be used for near futures (and combines with future-referring adverbials as well as "now"). The only detailed analysis of tense semantics in a Bantu language that I know of is Seth Cable's work on Kikuyu, which you might consult.


Riffian always uses a particle "ad" in combination with a particular inflectional verbal morphology (unmarked form) to express future events. For example:

ad ccex

FUT eat.1P.FUT

I will eat



I ate

Some verbs have the same form (unmarked form) to express the future and the past. It is the particle "ad" that bears the future feature and distinguishes between these word-forms. For example:

ad ssnex

FUT know.1P.FUT

I will know



I knew

Thus, future events cannot be expressed with other inflectional verbal morphologies. An event that didn't start can only be encoded with the particle "ad" and the unmarked form, called in the Berber grammatical tradition "aorist".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.