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2011 – A Year of Protest? – The grammar of future predictions

‘I predict a riot!’ sing the Kaiser Chiefs and I think that is a good way to describe how I feel about 2011. For Sure

  1. There will definitely be more government cuts and big public protests as a result.
  2. There’s going to be mass hysteria surrounding the royal wedding, encouraged by the government wanting to distract people from all the bad things. No doubt a sensible minority will complain about the expense and become republicans.
  3. Silvio Berlusconi will be involved in some kind of scandal. When was the last year that he wasn’t? There will be more demonstrations in Italy as a result.

Maybe, Maybe...

  1. Obama might well become a lot more popular once the U.S. comes to realize how scary Sarah Palin is.
  2. The British coalition government could fall because of internal fighting and the Liberal Democrat party could split as a result.
  3. A team which is not Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal may win the English Premier League for the first time in fifteen years, to the shock of football fans worldwide.

Definitely Not!

  1. England won’t organize an alternative football world cup despite open accusations of corruption in FIFA and recognition that it is the only way England will ever win the competition again.
  2. It isn’t going to snow so much that Ryanair will give you skis instead of a seat on a plane although they do consider the idea as a way of saving money.
  3. Despite all the evidence, world leaders won’t do anything at all to try and save the planet from climate change.

The language we use to make predictions:

  1. If we are reasonably sure about something we have two options, will or be going to. In many situations we can use both without any difference in meaning. So, in the second prediction we could also say ‘there will be mass hysteria’.
  2. One fundamental difference is if we make reference to evidence as we make the prediction. In this case we prefer be going to. For example ‘Look at those two cars; they’re going to crash!’
  3. If we are less sure we have three options – might, may and could. They essentially all have the same meaning although sometimes may is more formal.

What are your predictions for the next twelve months? Are you as pessimistic as me?

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