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I'm learning French at school and we learned the "futur proche" tense last year, and just started learning the "futur simple" tense. Which one is more commonly used by native French speakers in everyday life? Is one more formal than the other?

Example of futur proche: Je vais regarder la télé (I am going to watch TV)

Example of futur simple: Je regarderai la télé (I will watch TV)

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As far as I know, there's no question of formality as such. The futur proche is used, as the name suggests, for events in the immediate future. Examples :

  • Je vais aller chez Alice. I'm going to go to Alice's place (presumably, right away or very soon).

  • Il va boire du café. He's going to have some coffee (in the very near future).

The futur simple is for events planned 'later' in the future. Examples :

  • Je lui en parlerai. I will speak to him about it (sometime later).

  • Nous serons là demain. We will be there tomorrow. (not immediately)

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    In Canada, there IS a question of formality. The Futur Proche is more used in informal (spoken) language and Futur Simple in formal (written) language. – Alan Evangelista Jun 11 at 21:42
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In general, the futur proche for actions/events that will take place almost immediately:

  • Je vais me coucher: I'm going to sleep (right now, in a very short moment)

Whereas the futur simple refers to actions/events that will take place in a determined or undetermined future: - J'irai au Canada le lundi prochain: I will go to Canada on next Monday (determined future) - Il ira au Canada: He will go to Canada (undetermined future)

But in most contexts (especially in spoken French), the two tenses are virtually interchangeable:

  • Elle va avoir un enfant: She is going to/will have a child
  • Elle aura un enfant: She is going to/will have a child
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    It is not interchangeable in the exemple you give : "Elle va avoir un enfant" → she's very probably pregnant. "Elle aura un enfant" → she plans to have a child"… As @Anupama G said, futur proche is used for immediate futur. That's the same in english as "I'm going to …" "Elle va avoir" → she's going to have. Most of time the present tense may be used for "futur proche", like in "Demain je vais chez Alice" : present tense but action in the futur. – Stéphane Aug 17 '16 at 22:59
  • "Je vais me coucher" whitout anymore context, this is for me a pure present, it means : right now. But as I pointed in my previous comment this part of sentence could really be a "futur proche" in sentences like "Je finis ma partie et je vais me coucher", "Dans deux heures je vais me coucher". Le "future simple" would also be correct in those last two exemples, but less used in spoken french – Stéphane Aug 17 '16 at 23:09
  • @Stéphane 1) "going to" and "will" are almost always used interchangeably in spoken English. If a woman is in her first month of pregnancy, it is completely fine to say "She is going to/will have a baby". 2) the formal difference between "will" and "going to" is not related to the proximitity of the future event, but whether it is strongly related to the present and to the speaker intention/expectation. For instance, if I am planning a trip, I'd usually say: "Next year I am going to travel to Greece". If those points do not apply to Futur Proche and Futur Simple, your comparison is confusing. – Alan Evangelista Jun 11 at 21:14
  • BTW In Canada, both Futur Proche and Futur Simple are completely interchangeable. The former is more common in spoken language and the latter in written language. – Alan Evangelista Jun 11 at 21:39

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