look forward to: meaning and explanation

If you are looking forward to something, it means you are happy or excited about something that will happen in the future. e.g. I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to the weekend. This week has been exhausting.

In spoken English and informal written contexts we tend to use this phrasal verb in the continuous form (I’m looking forward to something).

It is very common to use this phrasal verb to conclude letters and emails in English with some version of the phrase I look forward to hearing from you soon. Note that in formal contexts we use the present simple rather than the present continuous.

Watch out for a very common mistake when using this expression. Remember that we look forward to somethinga noun. For example, at the moment I’m looking forward to lunch, to the football, to my birthday etc. If we want to use a verb here (to describe an action that we are looking forward to) then we have to use the -ing form, e.g. I’m looking forward to seeing my family, I’m not looking forward to going to work tomorrow etc. It is very common for students to accidentally use an infinitive here (e.g. I’m looking forward to see you).

Remember – when you use a verb like a noun, use the -ing form.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this phrasal verb being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

The kids their dad so I'm to in.
The kids staying with their dad weekend so I'm forward to a lie in.

…having a lie in

to have a lie in = to deliberately stay in bed for longer than normal because you don’t have to get up. e.g. I used to enjoy having lie ins at the weekend but it’s impossible now I have children.

If you stay in bed for longer by accident, we say that you have overslept., e.g. I overslept again and was late for work for the third time this week.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • What are you looking forward to at the moment?
  • What are you not looking forward to?
  • Is there anything you had been excited or happy about but which got cancelled or you missed? Tell me about it using I was looking forward to….but…

Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

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