Just as Spanish subjunctive verbs can give translators trouble, Spanish future tense verbs can compound the difficulty in getting a meaningful translation that rises above simple verbatim word substitution. While Spanish future tense verbs are easy to conjugate, translating them requires understanding their intent, which is often more than stating how something is going to happen in the future.
Namely, in Spanish the future tense has two other uses: first, to communicate in an emphatic command; and, second, to state likelihood or probability. Smoking out those subtle variations of the future tense verbs requires professional translation services services employing experts who can go well beyond simple literal dictionary look-ups.
Using the future tense for emphatic commands
Parents use commands like, "You will (emphasis on the word "will") be home before 9:00!" The meaning in English is not only a desired future condition, but also an unambiguous command to the child to obey. In Spanish the future tense can be used in the same way. The foregoing command would be translated "Estarás en casa antes de las nueve." Here the future tense of estar is used to state the parent's wishes and orders.
The not-so-easy "suppositional future"
This usage of the future tense in Spanish is where a word-for-word translation will come up short. The future tense in Spanish is often used to show a likelihood of something being true, a statement of probability, or even a question as to whether something is true — all in the context of the present! Correctly translating a future tense verb used in this way is totally dependent on understanding its context. In English we would normally use "probably" or "must be.
• Where do you think Juan is (right now)? ¿Dónde estará Juan?
• He is probably (or must be) at home. Estará en casa.
Another usage would be in the sense of "I wonder..."
• I wonder how my daughter is doing now! ¿Cómo estará mi hija ahora?
...which could be answered with another future tense verb:
She is probably happy and well. Estará allegre y en buena salud.
Run "¿Dónde estará Juan?" through a dictionary and you will come up with "Where will Juan be?" So it is obvious that there is a big difference between the intent of the statement and a resulting literal translation. You have to know when, where and why the question was asked to determine just what the question is asking.
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