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Author Topic: The right form of the future perfect progressive tense  (Read 785 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: March 12, 2016, 12:06:11 AM »

The following question about the proper usage of the future perfect progressive tense was raised in Jose Carillo’s English Forum sometime ago by member MelvinHate:
“What is the tense used in this sentence: ‘Just think, this time next month I have been working here for ten years.’ Is it the present perfect progressive or the future perfect progressive? When are we supposed to use the future perfect progressive?”

My reply to MelvinHate:

The sentence you presented, “Just think, this time next month I have been working here for ten years,” is defective in construction. I can tell you outright that it is neither in the present perfect progressive nor in the future perfect progressive tense.

At first blush that sentence looks and reads like a future perfect tense sentence, considering that two future time-frames are involved (“this time next month” and “for ten years”) and the construction does seem like that of a future perfect sentence. When read as a whole, however, we find a disturbing  discrepancy in that sentence between its grammar and semantics. Indeed, the way it is constructed, that sentence really doesn’t make the grade.

To find out precisely what’s wrong with that sentence, we might as well do a quick review of the perfect progressive tenses in English.

Recall that perfect progressive sentences focus on the completion of an action in progress in the past, at present, or in the future. They are meant to give us a better idea of how long an action, activity, or process takes place by providing time referents for ascertaining its progress.

As with the three simple tenses, of course, there are as many perfect progressive tenses: the present perfect progressive, the past perfect progressive, and the future perfect progressive.

The present perfect progressive describes a continuous action that has been finished at some point in the recent past, or one that started in the past, continues up to the present, and may continue into the future. This tense has the following form: Subject + “has/have”  + “been” + the verb’s present participle (the base form of the verb + the suffix “-ing”). Two examples: “I have been working here for ten years now.” “She has been doing her work diligently until this week.”

The past perfect progressive tense describes an ongoing action that was completed before some other past action. This tense has the following form: “had” + “been” + the verb’s present participle + time relation to a referent action. Example: “The choir had been doing their rehearsals regularly but disbanded when many members moved out of town for good.”

The future perfect progressive tense describes a future ongoing action that is anticipated to occur before some specified future time. This tense has the following form: “will have” + “been” + the verb’s present participle + time relation to another future action. Example: “By this time this August, we will have been working in this company for 12 years.”

Now let’s go back to the problematic sentence you presented: “Just think, this time next month I have been working here for ten years.” On closer inspection, we can see that this sentence has practically the same structure and the same requisite elements as the example of the future perfect progressive sentence given above, except for one small but very crucial grammar element—it missed out on the auxiliary verb “will” for forming the future perfect progressive “will have been working.” This is why it wrongly took the present perfect progressive form “have been working,” which as we have seen is fatal to the sense and logic of that sentence.

So, simply inserting “will” in that problematic sentence will make it a perfectly legitimate future perfect progressive: “Just think, this time next month I will have been working here for ten years.”   

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in its March 6, 2016, © 2016 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.

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