• A full-dress review of the perfect tenses (4)


    TO complete our full-dress review of the perfect tenses, we will now take up the future perfect tense. We will do so to correct the third faulty conclusion about this tense that was presented Miss Mae, a member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum, in her rejoinder to my column last December 5. Her understanding was that the future perfect is used “when the action still has to be completed in the future.”

    This description of the future perfect misses out on this crucial aspect: the completion of the future action or event should be with respect to another future action or point in time. To get a better sense of this, imagine that we have traveled in time and are now looking back at actions or events that will be completed after the present time (the here and now). Indeed, the future perfect will be a kind of present tense from the viewpoint of the future instead of the present.

    The future perfect sentence has this general form: (Subject) + (“will have”) + (past participle of main verb) + (time relation to another future action, expressed in the present tense). Consider this example: “The woman will have cooked dinner when her friends arrive.” The sentence describes an action that continues into the future—the future perfect component—and another action or point in time, expressed in the simple present, in which the action culminates.

    Specifically, the future perfect tense can be used for these four distinct scenarios:

    1. A future action that will be completed before another future time or event: “The Supreme Court will have decided the candidate’s disqualify ication case by then.” (The act of deciding the case is done before some unspecified time in the future.) “By the time his wife comes back from her morning jog, he will have finished writing his report.” (The wife’s coming back takes place after the writer finishes his report.)

    2. An action or condition that will continue up to a certain point in the future: “The executive will have held the job for 20 years when he retires in June.” “The astronaut will have been in the Space Station for a year by the time he goes back to Earth.” (In both sentences, 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: “When yearend comes, the family will have moved to their new house.” “By the time the disqualification case against her gets decided, the candidate will have tangled with every convention and established authority.” (The independent clauses “the family will have moved to their new house” and “the candidate will have tangled with every convention and established authority” take place prior to the time frames of their respective dependent clauses.)

    4. A future event whose completion is more important than how long it will take to complete it: “By the time he gets paroled, the convict will have stayed in prison for 10 years.” “At this rate, he will have taken the bar examinations six times by the time he obtains his license to practice law.” (The future perfect dramatizes the importance of the end-point of a process rather than the process itself.)

    Keep in mind that in future perfect sentences, the independent clause cannot begin with the conjunctions “when,” “while,” “before,” “after,” “by the time,” “as soon as,” “if,” and “unless.” Only the dependent clause can use them. Thus, this future perfect construction is incorrect: “Anita leaves for Dubai next week when she will have obtained her work visa.” The correct construction: “When Anita leaves for Dubai next week, she will have obtained her work visa.”

    This ends our four-part full-dress review of the perfect tenses.

    * * *

    A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all!

    Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, http://josecarilloforum.com. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo. E-mail: j8carillo@yahoo.com


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