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future perfect


future perfect

An example from Gilda Radner of the future perfect: "The important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived."


A verb form that expresses action completed by a specified time in the future.

The future perfect is formed by combining will have or shall have with a past participle.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Everyone there will give big cheer!
    Everyone there will have moved here!"
    (Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, "America." West Side Story, 1957)

  • "We use the future perfect tense when we want to emphasize the 'no-later-than' time of the completion of a future action. Compare the meaning of the following sentences, the first in the future tense, the second in the future perfect tense:

    • Future: We will break for lunch around 12:30.
    • Future perfect: We will have broken for lunch by 12:30.
    The future tense sentence merely states when some future action will take place. The future perfect sentence puts a 'no-later-than' time limit on when the action will have been completed. We could break for lunch at noon or even 11:00, but in any event, we will have broken for lunch no later than 12:30."
    (M. Lester and L. Beason, McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2005)

  • "If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."
    (Marcus Aurelius)

  • "If [Al Gore] doesn't carry Florida, Slim will have left town."
    (Dan Rather reporting on the 2000 U.S. presidential election)

  • "You may win this war, Colonel, but when it is over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your victory will taste as bitter as defeat."
    (Salome Jens as Shapeshifter in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1999)

  • "'We shall now,' said he to Aladdin, 'go no further, and I shall here unfold to your view some extraordinary things, hitherto unknown to mortals; and which, when you shall have seen, you will thank me a thousand times for having made you an eye-witness of.'"
    ("Alladin, or the Wonderful Lamp" in The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, trans. by Edward Forster, 1839)

  • The Lighter Side of Language: Douglas Adams on Tenses and Time Travel
    "One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. . . .

    "The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

    "Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later editions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

    "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term 'Future Perfect' has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be."
    (Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Pan Books, 1980)
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