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In the future is used at the beginning or end of a sentence and means from some point in the future onward: There will be peace on earth in the future. Often this involves a decision or warning that takes effect or concerns a point in the future: I would like to find a less demanding job in the future. In the future be more careful, won’t you? [when doing something]. (E.g. after having clumsily broken a glass bowl when washing up, the next time washing up dishes is an event placed at some point in the future; here In future be more careful has effectively the same meaning as the state of carefulness is being asked for from this present point on.) In the foreseeable future limits how far into the future the state of affairs being predicted begins: In the foreseeable future all cars will be powered by non-fossil fuels. Might they finally have free elections in the foreseeable future? The phrase is often used in negative constructions such as I cannot see me leaving my current job at any point in the foreseeable future to indicate the unlikeliness of seeing something happen anytime soon. In the near future, used in positive constructions, brings the point in future closer to the present. This could spell trouble for the government in the near future. In the distant future pushes the point in future farther away: Similarly, they are more likely to oppose reforms that have an immediate impact than measures that will only be felt in the distant future. And, between the two is in the not too distant future, often used optatively: I hope to be able to present some of the results in the not too distant future.

In future means “from now on” (at least in British English – in American English “in the future” is used for this sense too). Compare There will be a congestion charge in future with There will be a congestion charge in the future: with “in future” the sentence means that the congestion charge applies with immediate effect, while with “in the future” the congestion charge will apply in the future (possibly immediately). In the phrase “in future” the time is from now on (not some point in the future on as it can be for “in the future”). More stringent safety checks will be carried out in future. For the foreseeable future limits the extent of “from now on” to as far into the future as can be imagined or planned for, allowing that circumstances may change: The closures would be in effect for the foreseeable future. In speech and more informal contexts, the phrase may be abbreviated to “for the foreseeable.”

Sources: Collins Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, ‘In the future’ vs. ‘in future’ in British and American English (Jakub Marian)


Andrew Goodall

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