Author Topic: Timeline for the future perfect tense  (Read 15040 times)

Joe Carillo

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Timeline for the future perfect tense
« on: October 28, 2021, 06:17:46 AM »
To me, one of the most gut-wrenching moments in cinema is that scene in the 1979 science-fiction classic Time After Time, where Amy Robbins, the love interest of the time-traveling Victorian fictionist H. G. Wells, enters a museum a few days into the future and stumbles on a newspaper that headlines her brutal murder by the serial killer Jack the Ripper. The usually unflappable woman, a prototype of today’s Liberated Woman, slowly crumbles to the floor in dazed disbelief—a victim of the future suddenly and inexplicably colliding with the present.

Situations like this are the essence of the future perfect, which allows us to project still unrealized events and outcomes into the future. Always, the future perfect refers to a completed action in the future. To get a sense of this, imagine yourself—like Amy Robbins—to have traveled in time and are now looking back at actions or events that will be completed after the present time, which is now in the past.

We can understand these concepts better when we examine the future perfect timeline below:

                                               IMAGE CREDIT: GRAMMAR-MONSTER.COM
The pivotal component of the future perfect is the main verb in the past participle form. For the future perfect form, however, we have to pair off the past participle with the future form of the auxiliary verb “be,” which is “will,” and with the present tense form of the auxiliary verb “have.” That is not all. Within the same sentence, we have to relate the future perfect action to another action or event in the future, which grammatically must take the simple present tense.

The future perfect sentence can therefore be expressed by this general formula: [Subject] + [“will have”] + [past participle of main verb] + [time relation to another future action, expressed in the present tense].

Like the scent of mild perfumes, the differences among the four future perfect tense scenarios are very subtle but nonetheless contextually significant:

1. A future action that will be completed before another time or event in the future.The health-conscious CEO will have jogged four kilometers before he takes his breakfast.” (The act of jogging takes place in the future sometime before the act of taking breakfast.)

2. An action or condition that will continue up to a certain point in the future.The explorer will have been in the North Pole for nine weeks by the time he goes back to London.” (An existing condition remains unchanged until a specific future time.)
3. A future event that will occur before a specific time or action in the future.By the time the blue jay gets back to its nest, the naughty boys will have taken away all its birdlings.” (The independent clause “the naughty boys will have taken away all its birdlings” happen prior to the time frame of the dependent clause.)

4. A future event whose completion is more important than how long it will take to complete it.By the time she gets her degree, she will have stayed in college for no less than six years.” (This use of the future perfect dramatizes the importance of the end-point or result of a process rather than the process itself.)

One very helpful rule in constructing complex future perfect sentences is that independent clauses in the future perfect tense cannot begin with the conjunctions “when,” “while,” “before,” “after,” “by the time,” “as soon as,” “if,” and “unless.” In future perfect sentences, only the dependent clause can use these conjunctions.

Now that you know the future perfect by heart, you need not worry about getting lost if perchance H. G. Wells, like what he did to Amy Robbins, picks you up for some quick time travel into the future. You surely will know how to get around in that normally inexplicable dimension.

(Next: The perfect progressive tense takes its time)     November 4, 2021  NOW ALSO AVAILABLE; CLICK LINK TO READ

This essay, 2069th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the October 28, 2021 Internet edition of The Manila Times,© 2021 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. It is a condensed version of a 1,056-word exposition entitled "Timeline For The Future Perfect" that first appeared in the author's English Plain and Simple column in The Manila Times in early 2003 and that later became part of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today's Global Language (Manila Times Publishing Corp., first  edition 2004, and second updated edition 2008). All rights reserved.

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Timeline for the future perfect tense

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« Last Edit: November 07, 2021, 09:24:13 AM by Joe Carillo »