Author Topic: Going back not only to the future perfect  (Read 12057 times)

Justine A.

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Going back not only to the future perfect
« on: September 10, 2021, 07:43:59 PM »
"By the end of September, only the Philippines and Venezuela will not have reopened schools since the pandemic began in 2020."

Sir, the reason why the future perfect tense is used in the sentence above, is because of the prepositional phrase, "By the end of September"?

Another question, do you consider "red herring" as logical fallacy?
« Last Edit: October 08, 2021, 09:48:18 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Reply: Going back not only to the future perfect
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2021, 10:37:00 PM »
Almost a month ago, Forum member Justine A. posted an admittedly very tough grammar question about this sentence: “By the end of September, only the Philippines and Venezuela will not have reopened schools since the pandemic began in 2020.”   

His question: “Is the prepositional phrase ‘By the end of September’ the reason why that sentence is in the future perfect tense?”

I beg the reader’s indulgence in being unable to give a simple, forthright answer to Justine’s question. This is because it somehow conflates—“confuses” is the simpler word—the presence of the prepositional phrase ‘By the end of September’ as the reason for the sentence being in the future perfect tense.

It’s true that the prepositional phrase “by the end of September” works to set a deadline in that perfect tense construction, but that doesn’t by itself constitute the reason for future perfect tense usage. However, it does indicate that the future perfect tense instead of the present perfect tense is intended by the main clause that follows.

With that caveat, let’s begin a thorough review of the perfect tenses to make absolutely sure that we understand all of them as whole and not just the future perfect tense.

The English language has three perfect tenses to describe an action or occurrence more fully as it has unfolded or is unfolding in time: (1) the present perfect tense, (2) the past perfect tense, and (3) the future perfect tense. Remember that the simple tenses alone (past, present, future) cannot capture the idea that the act or occurrence had been completed either in the past or by the present time, or that it will continue or stop sometime in the future.

                                               IMAGE CREDIT: OPENSTAX CNX

Present perfect tense. The action is completed with respect to the present, but precisely when is not specified: “I have prepared for the trip.” “She has been to Geneva.” “We have just taken the test.”

Past perfect tense. The action is completed with respect to another past action or event: “I had prepared for the trip, but did not remember to renew my passport.” “She had been to Geneva before she reached the age of ten.” “We had just taken the test when word came that it would be cancelled.”

Future perfect tense. The future action will be completed with respect to another future action or event: “I will have raised the amount by Sunday.” “She will not have completed the housework by the time I come back.” “They will have sold all their stock in an hour or two.”

All three of the perfect tenses have one thing in common: they use the past participle of the main verb, which works with either the present tense of the auxiliary verb “have” or its past tense “had.” For instance, in the present perfect sentence “She has finished the job,” the participle form is “finished,” with the auxiliary verb “has” carrying the tense and number of “finished,” which is in the present participle, first person singular.

Always keep in mind that in English, the past participle of a verb typically ends in “-ed.” In the case of irregular verbs, however, they may have endings like “-en,” “-t,” “-d,” and “-n” as in “swollen,” “burnt,” “hoped,” and “broken”; and some past participles of irregular verbs like “set” and “cut” remain the same as their base forms (“set” and “cut”).*

Another word of caution before we proceed: The term “perfect” to distinguish the perfect tenses from the simple tenses unfortunately implies a superiority that’s neither meant nor intended. What “perfect” means in this context is not “flawless or exact in every detail” but “perfected” or “completed” action. The perfect tenses denote events or states that have ended, are ending, or will end in time.

We will take up the present perfect tense in greater detail next week.

*For a clearer idea of the extent of variation from the normative “-ed”
  ending of the past participles of irregular verbs, click the link below
  to the Woodward English YouTube video presentation of “101 Irregular
  Past Participles in English” with examples:
(Next: Timeline for the present perfect)     October 14, 2021

This essay, 2066th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the October 7, 2021 Internet edition of The Manila Times,© 2021 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this article online in The Manila Times:
Going back not only to the future perfect

To listen to the audio version of this article, click the encircled double triangle logo in its online posting in The Manila Times.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2021, 07:14:55 PM by Joe Carillo »