Can I always use the present tense for something happening in the future?

In Italian, I could use the Simple Present for something happening in the future. For example, I could say l’anno prossimo parto per gli Stati Uniti (“the next year I leave for the USA”.) This would mean that my plans to travel are set, or at least are mostly in place. Something might come up that would prevent me from visiting the USA (e.g. the person who was to give me hospitality has more urgent affairs), but that is something I don’t know when writing the sentence. In any event, the sentence is not just expressing mere willingness to travel but also intent.

Can I use the Simple Present, in English, for a similar situation? If the answer is yes, can it be done with any verb? For example, can I use the following sentence, or is it wrong?

With the help of my cousin, I pass the exam.

I would take the sentence as meaning that I made arrangements with my cousin, and he is going to help me study for the exam.


The Italian usage you describe (l’anno prossimo &c) is acceptably translatable with the simple present. What is being spoken of here is a future event which is regarded at the present as immutably fixed; the use is fairly common with schedules and timetables:

Is there a time I could see Prof. Sartorius today?
Let me see … he’s in class from 9 to 11, he’s lunching with the Dean at noon, and there’s a Faculty Senate meeting from 1 to 5; how about 11:30?

It is also used with commands and instructions of the sort that comprise a running narrative when (or as if) the hearer is present and watching a demonstration:

It’s very simple. You attach the framistan to the sporgle … decostinate the pantogriff, like this … subindure the phlogiston stream … and voilá! your problem is solved.

But the simple present is too strong to be used in your other example. Even though you believe that securing your cousin’s assistance makes passing the exam quite as determinate as Prof. Sartorius’ calendar of appointments, the statement and reflects not an impersonal fact but your own confidence and determination. You ordinarily say that you will or are going to pass the exam.

You use the simple present only when you can portray the event as “subsequent” rather than consequent and contingent: *Here’s my plan for the coming week. On Monday I study with my cousin. On Tuesday I study with my cousin. On Wednesday I attend the Opera. On Thursday I study with my cousin. On Friday, with my cousin’s help, I pass the exam.” In effect, you transform the event into an episode in a present-tense narrative.

Source : Link , Question Author : apaderno , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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