How to use 要 Yào, 会 Huì, 将 Jiāng in Chinese to Express the Future

November 25, 2023

As much as we are all encouraged to “live in the present”, there’s no shortage of instances when we need to talk about the future. What are our plans for the day? What are we going to do next week? Where will we go next year?

Unlike other languages, expressing the future in Chinese isn’t done with conjugations. Instead, we have a collection of words that help us express what’s yet to come. 要 Yào, 会 huì, and 将 jiāng all help us express the future in Chinese, each in their own ways.

Let’s take a closer look at 要 yào, 会 huì, and 将 jiāng – their similarities and their important differences.

How to Use 要 Yào to Express the Future in Chinese

Using 要 Yào to Express a Confident Prediction

At its simplest, 要 yào means “going to”.

Subject + 要 Yào + Verb

Ex: 我要和我的朋友们一起玩.
Wǒ yào hé wǒ de péngyǒumen yīqǐ wán.
I’m going to play with my friends.

We can also interpret this sentence as expressing our intention to play with our friends. It’s our plan to play with. To that point, it’s useful to remember 要 yào expresses a confident prediction in Chinese: It’s not just that we’re thinking about doing something – it’s in our plans to do something.

Using 要 Yào to Indicate an Intention in Chinese

As we just saw, 要 yào helps us talk about what we’re going to do.

Now let’s set a time for these upcoming plans.

Subject + Time + 要 Yào + Verb or Time + Subject + 要 Yào + Verb
(Note: The subject and time of the sentence can swap places as needed.)

Ex: 我的姐姐明年去墨西哥.
Wǒ de jiějiě míngnián qù mòxīgē.
My sister is going to Mexico next year.

This also works in questions:

Ex: 下个星期你要做什么?
Xià gè xīngqí nǐ yào zuò shénme?
What are you going to do next week?

In response, we would stick with the same sentence structure to express our plans for next week.

Using 要 Yào with 快 Kuài and 就 Jiù

Sometimes there’s no set time, but rather the expression that something is coming (possibly very soon). In those cases, 要 yào may choose to team up with 快 kuài or 就 jiù.

Subject + 快要 Kuàiyào + Verb + 了 Le
Subject + 就要 Kiùyào + Verb + 了 Le

Ex: 快要清明节了.
Kuàiyào qīngmíng jiéle.
It’s almost Qingming Festival.

Ex: 飞机就要起飞了.
Fēijī jiù yào qǐfēile.
The plane is about to take off.

In each of these scenarios, something is going to happen soon. However, there is a variance of degree to consider. Check out our article on Chinese Verb Tenses and pay special attention to the Imminent Aspect. The speed at which things are about to happen varies between 快(要) kuài(yào), 要 yào, and 就 jiù.

Also note that, in most cases, you can use 快 kuài and 就 jiù with 要 yào, or you can use them on their own. The expression is the same: That something is about to happen or is coming soon. A lot of the time, both 快要 kuàiyào and 就要 jiùyào are fairly interchangeable! (It’s only when a specific time is mentioned that we can’t use 快 kuài.)

So for example, rather than saying the plane is about to take off, as we did before, we could be more specific:

Hái yǒu sìshí fēnzhōng de fēijī jiù(yào) qǐfēile. The plane will take off in 40 minutes.

Either way, things are happening soon. We just need the right grammar structure to reflect the immediacy of the upcoming event!

Using the Negative Form of 要 Yào

In its negative form, 不要 bùyào expresses a command.

不要 Bùyào + Verb
(Note: While the pinyin reflects two fourth tones, you will pronounce 不要 as búyào, using a second-fourth tone combination.)

Ex: 不要走.
Bùyào zǒu.
Don’t go.

Ex: 不要太晚起床.
Bùyào tài wǎn qǐchuáng.
Don’t get up too late.

Note: There are certainly ways to talk about something that won’t happen in the future, but in those cases, we don’t need 要 yào! We can simply use 不 bù with a verb.

Subject + Time + 不 Bù + Verb (+ Object)

Ex: 我今天晚上不写作业.
Wǒ jīntiān wǎnshàng bù xiě zuòyè.
I’m not going to do my homework tonight.

Other Uses of 要 Yào

You will have undoubtedly seen 要 yào used in other Chinese grammar structures. Here are some of those alternative usages:

1. Using 要 Yào to Express Want

We all want things. To express that we want something, we can say:

Subject + 要 Yào + Noun

Ex: 她要新的耳机.
Tā yào xīn de ěrjī.
She wants new headphones.

However, if we want to do something, we can say:

Subject + 要 Yào + Verb

Ex: 我们要吃冰淇淋.
Wǒmen yào chī bīngqílín.
We want to eat ice cream.

    Notes: - You can see there is not always a clear difference in the way we express wanting to do something and expressing our plan to do something. It all comes down to context. If we don’t add a time to our sentence, making clear this is a future scenario, we need to infer from the rest of the sentence what the speaker is saying. - You may also be saying, “Hey, wouldn’t we use 想 xiǎng in some of these sentences?” We surely could swap out 要 yào for 想 xiǎng. In fact, using 要 yào is actually more direct. Alternatively, 想 xiǎng is more often used to express a gentler desire.

2. Using 要 Yào to Express Need

Perhaps it’s not just that you want to do something, but you need to do it.

Subject + 要 Yào + Verb (+ Object)

Ex: 我要找到我的手机.
Wǒ yào zhǎodào wǒ de shǒujī.
I need to find my phone.

In this grammar structure, you can swap 要 yào for 需要 xūyào. In fact, the latter is typically more common.

3. Using 要么 Yàome to Express “Either … Or …”

Let’s say you want to present someone with two options, implying that they must choose one or the other. To do so, you can use this sentence structure:

要么 Yàome + Option A + 要么 Yàome + Option B

Ex: 要么去跑步要么去健身房.
Yàome qù pǎobù yàome qù jiànshēnfáng. Either go for a run or go to the gym.

This is a pretty forceful sentence. There is no Option C, so the listener better choose one of the options listed.

4. Using 要 … 就 … as an Alternative to 如果 … 就 …

There are times when you see someone teetering on the edge of a decision. So, in the hopes of inspiring action, you can use this sentence structure:

Yào + Verb + 就 Jiù + Verb
(If you want to …, just …)

Ex: 要去就去.
Yào qù jiù qù.
If you want to go, (just) go.

It’s important to note that this structure is most commonly used with single-syllable verbs, like 走 zǒu, 买 mái, 吃 chī, etc.

Let’s bid adieu to 要 yào for now, and move on to our next future helper: 会 huì.

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How to Use 会 Huì to Express the Future in Chinese

Essentially, 会 huì in Chinese translates to “will”.

Ex: 聚会以后, 我会给你打电话.
Jùhuì yǐhòu, wǒ huì gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà.
I will call you after the party.

Like its 要 yào counterpart, 会 huì helps us share a future intention in Chinese. However, 会 huì implies a much stronger possibility than 要 yào.

Using 会 Huì to Indicate a Confident Prediction in Chinese

When we use 会 huì in a sentence, we are feeling very confident about this prediction or plan. Someone will do something. Something will happen.

Subject + 会 Huì + Verb (+ Object)

Ex: 我会告诉他你过来了.
Wǒ huì gàosù tā nǐ guòláile.
I will tell him you stopped by.

In this sentence, our meaning is clear: You don’t need to worry - this will happen.

This structure also works for questions.

Ex: 明天会下雪吗?
Míngtiān huì xià xuě ma?
Will it snow tomorrow?

What’s important to note, though, is that these all refer to near-future events. None of us can really know what the future holds. We can only be confident of what is very soon to come. It would be rare to use 会 huì for something too far in the future because if it’s too far into the future, we simply can’t be confident of it.

Using the Negative Form of 会 Huì

Just as we might be certain something will happen, we can be equally sure it won’t. In those cases, we need 不 to lend a hand.

Subject + 不 + 会 Huì + Verb (+ Object)

Ex: 别担心. 我的狗不会跳到你身上.
Bié dānxīn. Wǒ de gǒu bù huì tiào dào nǐ shēnshang.
Don’t worry. My dog won’t jump on you.

Other Uses of 会 Huì

As common as it is to use 会 huì to express the future, it is equally (if not more common) to use 会 huì to express ability. More specifically, 会 huì expresses one’s ability as acquired through learning. So when you want to share that you have a particular skill- or knowledge-based skill, 会 huì can help you do so. (Read more about this usage, as well as other verbs that do similar work in a Chinese sentence: The Differences Between 会 Huì, 能 Néng, and 可以 Kěyǐ)

It's now time to introduce our third player in expressing the future: 将 jiāng.

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How to Use 将 Jiāng to Express the Future in Chinese

Like its previous counterpart 会 huì, 将 jiāng also means “will”.

Ex: 他将成为一个好妈妈.
Tā jiāng chéngwéi yīgè hǎo māmā.
She will be a good mother.

However, there are a few key differences:

  1. jiāng is largely used in formal contexts and writing. So while it’s not like you can’t use 将 jiāng in spoken language, you would sound more natural to use 会 huì in that context.
  2. Compared to the other verbs in this article, 将 jiāng is most suitable for long-lasting future results, or for those that will happen in the distant future. As you saw in the example, her becoming a new mom isn’t going to happen overnight, nor is it something that will end abruptly. Instead, this is something that may take a while to occur and will remain true for a long time in the future.
  3. Unlike 要 yào and 会 huì, 将 jiāng in Chinese cannot be negated. You cannot say 不将 bùjiāng.

Using 将 Jiāng with 要 Yào and 会 Huì

Future tense verbs, unite!

Indeed, we can start to pair up everything we’ve been talking about so far.

Both 将要 jiāngyào and 将会 jiānghuì mean “will”, and they both express a relatively sure possibility for the future.

Subject + 将要 Jiāngyào / 将会 Jiānghuì + Verb (or Verb Phrase)

Ex: 她们公司今年将要 / 将会推出一款新产品. Tāmen gōngsī jīnnián jiāngyào / jiānghuì tuīchū yī kuǎn xīn chǎnpǐn.
Their company will launch a new product this year.

    Note: While 将 jiāng, 将要 jiāngyào, and 将会 jiānghuì can all be used as “will”, only 将 jiāng on its own can be used for something that is long-lasting.

Ex: 他将永远是我的楷模.
Tā jiāng yǒngyuǎn shì wǒ de kǎimó.
She will always be my role model.

In this sentence, this future and long-lasting status of “role model” can only be expressed with 将 jiāng.

Other Uses of 将 Jiāng

In your Chinese language studies, you may have come across 把 when studying the passive voice in Chinese.

(If you’re a bit rusty with passive voice, think of it as something being done to an object. “The orange was eaten by him.” The alternative active voice would say, “He ate the orange.”)

In Chinese, the sentence structure looks like this:

Subject + 把 Bǎ + Object + Verb

(Read more about this here: How to Use bǎ 把 in Chinese)

In formal contexts and writing, you can swap 吧 for 将 jiāng. The meaning doesn’t change.


There you have it! An assortment of ways to help you share your plans and predictions. As you’ve seen, 要 yào, 会 huì, and 将 jiāng all do their part in expressing the future.

They have their similarities, but it’s knowing their differences that will help your Chinese sound more fluent! Practice each and train your brain to find the right verb on the fly. Soon, explaining plans, intentions, and predictions will be a breeze!

Let us know what other Chinese grammar points we can help clarify!

About the Author

Alexandra Sieh became fascinated by the Chinese language (and especially its written characters) during her 6+ years living and traveling in China.

Alexandra Sieh cultureyard author