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"in future" vs "in the future"

English translation: Interchangeable???

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09:24 May 12, 2002
English to English translations [PRO]
English term or phrase: "in future" vs "in the future"
A fellow translator asked me about this the other day, and to be honest, I can't give him a clear answer.

His question was

"I have a British-American usage question and could use some sage counsel. It had always been my feeling that Americans would generally say "in the future" all the time as opposed to situations where the British would delete the article and write "in future" (meaning from now on). However, a British colleague of mine told me that "in future" was American, which I found rather hard to believe. "

So is there a US/UK difference between the two? Or is any difference in usage linked to a difference in meaning? Or am I just splitting hairs....
Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 01:34
English translation:Interchangeable???
Explanation:
Well, I've pondered all the above answers until the word "future" has begun to lose all meaning for me. At this point, I suspect that I'm thinking even less clearly with each passing moment (not to suggest that I commence with clarity).

I agree with the timeline comments, such as saying that 'In future' is synonymous with 'henceforth', etc. (BTW, I once knew a dog who had been named "Henceforth" - so his owners would say things like "Sit Henceforth!" or "Come Henceforth!" LOL) Note, however, that I prefer "henceforward" to "henceforth". But, I don't think it's a rule.

I agree with the comments that "in future" would be followed by a noun, such as "in future negotiations, we will..." But that's, as explained, when 'future' is being used as an adjective. As such, I'm not sure that answers the asker's question.

I certainly agree that Americans would almost invariably use "in the future", but as I commented above, I vaguely recall the usage of "in future" on some occasions.

Dare I say that these two phrases could almost be used interchangeably?

Yes, if it's an american audience, I would recommend using "in the future" as it would be the least likely to raise eyebrows.

And yes, there are certain times when one would be advised to use one or the other for either UK or US audiences. For instance, in the case of the above mentioned adjectival use of the word 'future', 'the' would normally not be included. Alternatively, if you were painting a picture of a future time yet to come (as mentioned above in the 'timeline' argument), I would suggest "in the future" for either country. For instance, "In the future, we will see everyone flying miniature jets and there will be no roads."

Having said that, I would suggest that there are a multitude of occasions when you could quite acceptably use either phrase, especially for a UK audience.

In summary, for a guideline, I would combine the advice of Rick's 'timeline' argument (which was also suggested by Chris) and Marian's 'US usage' argument.
Selected response from:

Terence Riley
Local time: 00:34
Grading comment
What DID I start here!!!! :-) So what do I do with all of your suggestions? Well, I guess that everyone has their own particular way of speaking/writing, and that sometimes this does depend on what side of the pond you're from. I think that does play a role here, but the slight difference in meaning adds a difficult slant. So I guess you're all right in your own ways. Thank you all for your input. It seems unfair to award anyone the full four points, I would like to give them to everyone - Terence, you summed up the arguements so nicely I'm going to give the points to you....
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +6in the future except as an adjectival clause
Marian Greenfield
4 +3Maybe a time span difference.
DOUBLE A EN<>ES
4US/UK difference, and differences in meaningChris Rowson
3 +1Interchangeable???Terence Riley
5 -1in future = UK Eng; in the future=US
Arthur Borges
4in future vs. in the futureKlaus Dorn
4"in future" vs "in the future"
fcl
4Well,Chris Rowson
4US/UK difference
jerrie
1More opinion and some search resultsDan McCrosky


  

Answers


7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
in future vs. in the future


Explanation:
As far as I can see, "in future" seems to be used to express "on any occasions in the future", so this refers to an event that has happened and will happen again (in the future).

"In the future" seems to be mainly used if one talks about something that hasn't happened before, therefore a new event.

Examples: In future, I won't try to answer questions like this again.

In the future, I might try different questions.

Please note that I have explicitly used "seems" in my expressions as making a firm statement is liable to severe reprimands in this circle.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-12 09:33:15 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I haven\'t seen a US/UK difference on this subject, but that doesn\'t mean it doesn\'t exist.

Klaus Dorn
Local time: 02:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in pair: 35
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19 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Maybe a time span difference.


Explanation:
in the future (adjective)

future: in the future, ahead, yet to come, waiting, millennial, eventual
impending: in the future, to come, in the womb of time, future

in future (adverb)

henceforth: henceforth, in future, from this time forth, from now on

The Original Roget's
-------------------------
The only highly subtle difference may be that "in the future" points to a specific time ahead that has not occurred, while "in future" covers a time span beginning at the time it is said and extending continuously forward.

in the future:
Time span
Now Future
Speaker |----------------->

in future:
Time span
Now Future
|--------------------------------->
Speaker


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-12 09:46:09 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Oh, I forgot, I don\'t think there is an US/UK issue at all here.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-12 09:47:47 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Plus, one\'s an adjective and the other an adverb, for what it\'s worth.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-12 10:02:24 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Plus, one\'s an adjective and the other an adverb, for what it\'s worth.

DOUBLE A EN<>ES
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish, Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sam D: This certainly concurs with UK usage. I wasn't aware of a UK/US difference at all, but it's true that we often use "in future", meaning "henceforth" (e.g. after fingers burnt "I'll do it differently in future.").
39 mins
  -> Thanks, Sam.

agree  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: Yes, the "in future" meaning "from now on" used as a warning is an optional extra in use in British English also.
18 hrs
  -> Cheers!

agree  Terence Riley: Yes, I think "in future" meaning "henceforth" is probably right.
1 day1 hr
  -> Thanks.
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24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
"in future" vs "in the future"


Explanation:
According to what I am used to hear or read in American English, "in future" is usually followed by a noun and "in the future" used as is with the meaning differences that this implies.

Apparently, there is no hit for "in future" with google.

Two cents from a non native...

fcl
France
Local time: 01:34
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench, Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in pair: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Elisabeth Ghysels: among the 1,540,000 Google hits for "in future", there is this british one, where you find both uses: http://www.doh.gov.uk/pharmacyfuture/
8 mins
  -> You are right. My request was not well formulated.
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27 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +6
in the future except as an adjectival clause


Explanation:
as with <in hospital>, in the U.S. we differ from Brit usage.

We always say <in the future>. The only instance of <in future> in Am Eng that I can think of is an adjectival clause such as <in future editions of a book> as opposed to <in the future, the book will be published....>

Marian Greenfield
Local time: 19:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 732

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Yuri Geifman: my feeling as well
2 hrs

agree  RHELLER: native American, never heard "in future" in US
3 hrs

agree  Tatiana Neroni
4 hrs

agree  Mike Sekine
5 hrs

neutral  Terence Riley: I'm not sure we *always* say "in the future" - though I would agree with "usually". I think I recall hearing "in future" as part of a command, such as "In future, behave!"
1 day1 hr

agree  Сергей Лузан
1 day7 hrs

agree  Jack Doughty: But in that case, British English is certainly differennt: nearly always "in future" except for expressions such as "at some time in the future".
3 days23 hrs
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38 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 1/5Answerer confidence 1/5
More opinion and some search results


Explanation:
I'm just an American and am not so good at pure British phraseology. I have never used "in future" except when "future" is an adjective with a clearly stated noun.

For example: "… in future negotiations …"

I have always thought that "in future" with future as a noun was German English, but now I learn it is also British English.

A Google English search of .com sites indicates that "in future" with "future" as a noun is rare. Many of the noun usage hits are not really US English sites.

It is a shame for us translators that there is no effective way to search for pure US English usage. For the UK, such searches work much better.

The same search with the .uk domain instead of .com results in a tremendous boost in the frequency of noun use, so it would seem your original opinion was right.

It appears that "in future" is quite common in British English but rare in US English.

HTH

Dan


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-05-12 11:12:32 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

NODE\'s entry for \"future\" as a noun includes the phrase:

\"(usually the future)\"



Dan McCrosky
Local time: 01:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 18

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Klaus Herrmann: Restricting the search to .mil and .edu sites effectively limits the search to US sites. Depending on the subject, of course.
2 hrs
  -> You're right, especially for a question like this, .edu would be a good possibility. I just tried it and got an apparently higher noun usage result than with the .com sites, but still not as high as with the .uk sites.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
US/UK difference


Explanation:
From reading the suggestions so far, it seems as if there is a clear difference between US and UK usage.

As a Brit, I think I would only use in the future with future being a noun with future meaning 'a point in time'.

In future, on the otherhand, I would use more often, in a more general way.

In future I won't try to answer questions like this. (as already suggested).

To think of rephrasing the above sentence, for me, using 'in the future' is harder.

I cannot envisage a time in the future when I would attempt to answer a question like this.

See which comes more naturally?
So, Brits...in future in most cases except where you can use 'the future' as a noun.

I think...I'm starting to get confused....

jerrie
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 773

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Terence Riley: You can't imagine saying, "In the future, I won't try to answer questions like this"?
1 day20 mins
  -> No, I would definitely say 'in future'!
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): -1
in future = UK Eng; in the future=US


Explanation:
This is the standard difference I saw as an second-language English teacher.

In future, society will...
In the future, society will...

Just like

She's in hospital (UK)
She's in the hospital (US)

However, given increasing exposure of UK audiences to US media, I wouldn't be surprised to hear increasing numbers of Brits using the second form.



Arthur Borges
China
Local time: 07:34
PRO pts in pair: 23

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Chris Rowson: We Brits use both forms of both, and have done for a long time. Using the article implies that it is a specific hospital, or point in or piece of the future
21 hrs

disagree  Terence Riley: I *THINK* one might hear either 'in future' or 'in the future' in the US, but never 'in hospital' (referring to your examples).
1 day18 mins
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23 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
US/UK difference, and differences in meaning


Explanation:
I won´t comment on US usage, but Americans have done that here. For me, UK usage is that both forms are used, but with a tendency to different meaning. I had to think very hard to identify that difference. It seems to be that "in future" starts from now, whereas "in the future" refers to a future point in time, or block of time which starts at some point in the future. (Which illustrates itself :-)

This is covered well by Rick´s Roget extract. The only thing is that, with the future being so abstract, we often diverge from this.

Arthur´s example is good. "In future society will ... " - probably means starting now, but now necessarily. "In the future society will ..." - probably prediction of change to come, but not necessarily.

"In the future, the company will face increased competition." Starts now, but I find "in future" unnatural here.



Chris Rowson
Local time: 01:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 243
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1 day2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Interchangeable???


Explanation:
Well, I've pondered all the above answers until the word "future" has begun to lose all meaning for me. At this point, I suspect that I'm thinking even less clearly with each passing moment (not to suggest that I commence with clarity).

I agree with the timeline comments, such as saying that 'In future' is synonymous with 'henceforth', etc. (BTW, I once knew a dog who had been named "Henceforth" - so his owners would say things like "Sit Henceforth!" or "Come Henceforth!" LOL) Note, however, that I prefer "henceforward" to "henceforth". But, I don't think it's a rule.

I agree with the comments that "in future" would be followed by a noun, such as "in future negotiations, we will..." But that's, as explained, when 'future' is being used as an adjective. As such, I'm not sure that answers the asker's question.

I certainly agree that Americans would almost invariably use "in the future", but as I commented above, I vaguely recall the usage of "in future" on some occasions.

Dare I say that these two phrases could almost be used interchangeably?

Yes, if it's an american audience, I would recommend using "in the future" as it would be the least likely to raise eyebrows.

And yes, there are certain times when one would be advised to use one or the other for either UK or US audiences. For instance, in the case of the above mentioned adjectival use of the word 'future', 'the' would normally not be included. Alternatively, if you were painting a picture of a future time yet to come (as mentioned above in the 'timeline' argument), I would suggest "in the future" for either country. For instance, "In the future, we will see everyone flying miniature jets and there will be no roads."

Having said that, I would suggest that there are a multitude of occasions when you could quite acceptably use either phrase, especially for a UK audience.

In summary, for a guideline, I would combine the advice of Rick's 'timeline' argument (which was also suggested by Chris) and Marian's 'US usage' argument.

Terence Riley
Local time: 00:34
PRO pts in pair: 8
Grading comment
What DID I start here!!!! :-) So what do I do with all of your suggestions? Well, I guess that everyone has their own particular way of speaking/writing, and that sometimes this does depend on what side of the pond you're from. I think that does play a role here, but the slight difference in meaning adds a difficult slant. So I guess you're all right in your own ways. Thank you all for your input. It seems unfair to award anyone the full four points, I would like to give them to everyone - Terence, you summed up the arguements so nicely I'm going to give the points to you....

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  AhmedAMS
9 days
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4 days   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Well,


Explanation:
the future is an interesting topic, about which there is little certainty. And asking for sage counsel on KudoZ ... well, what you see is what you get! :-)

Chris Rowson
Local time: 01:34
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 243
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