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  1. #1
    dqdqf is offline Newbie
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    Default can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Hello Teachers,

    I came across a letter in a business English book that concerns an offer to a past Emirates passenger for a free flight voucher if he completes a questionaire. Here's the part that confuses me and would be grateful if you would offer me some pointers.

    "As someone who has flown Emirates in the past year, you will have experienced our outstanding service to the Middle East".

    I don't understand the tenses underlined. They're obviously suggesting that the person flew Emirates in the past year, but why are they using future perfect to refer to the result (outstanding service received) that's also in the past? Shouldn't it be "As someone who has flown Emirates in the past year, you have experienced our outstanding service to the Middle East"? I'm not familiar with the use of future perfect in this kind of context. I always thought future perfect is used to talk about something that will be completed before another event in the future, as in "I will have lived/been living in Hawaii for 2 years by June". Can future perfect actually be used to talk about past events? I found the following future perfect sentences online that referred to the past also, though why they chose to phrase them this way is beyond me.

    "As you will have already heard, the gym will be closed today"
    "You will have noticed that we no longer have a convertible."

    Your help is greatly appreciated!

    dq

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Your sentences do not contain a 'future perfect' form. 'Will' often expresses the speaker's certainty about something.

    1. Luke's plane took off two hours ago, so he will be in London by now.
    2. Luke's plane took off three hours ago, so he will have landed by now.


    In #1, the certainty is about Luke's present location; In #2, it is about something that has happened. There is no future involved.

  3. #3
    dqdqf is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Your sentences do not contain a 'future perfect' form. 'Will' often expresses the speaker's certainty about something.

    1. Luke's plane took off two hours ago, so he will be in London by now.
    2. Luke's plane took off three hours ago, so he will have landed by now.

    In #1, the certainty is about Luke's present location; In #2, it is about something that has happened. There is no future involved.
    Hi 5jj,

    Thanks for you help. I kind of see what you mean, like the same way we express faith using will, as in "so and so will be our new president next year".

    Hmmm...I don't know, I kind of get it and kind of don't. I think I'm still a bit confused, probably because of the structure. So "you will have experienced" is not future perfect? Because it looks like one... I don't get why it has to be written like that, are they expressing a past certainty (with regard to the outstanding service when the passenger flew) or a present certainty (regarding a past experience)? I wouldn't know when to write sentences the same way...

    I didn't have any one to turn to so I posted this online. I'm very grateful for your kind help.

    dq

  4. #4
    Calis's Avatar
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    The future perfect means, the described event is in the past by the time the future happens.
    That's one way of putting it.

    [Not a teacher]

  5. #5
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    One of the ideas conveyed by 'will' is certainty. Context/co-text tells (/will tell!) us whether that certainty is about the present (1), a time before the present [the past] (2), the future (3), or a future time before a later future time (4).

    1. Luke's plane took off two hours ago, so he will be in London by now.
    2. Luke's plane took off three hours ago, so he will have landed by now.
    .
    3. X will be our new president next year.
    4. I will have finished the painting by the time you get back from your mother's
    (tomorrow).

  6. #6
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    It's a good point though - about whether "will have experienced" is an example of the future perfect tense. It certainly looks like it; it has the structure of the future perfect tense.

    On a related note, I have argued in the past that the 'were' in "If I were rich ..." is not the past tense (it's the subjunctive of the present), even though it has the form of the past tense. I suspect that yours is a similar case. I really don't know what is correct - whether, if something is in the form of a certain tense, it is in that tense, or not.

    Do we take the tense of a structure from its form or its meaning? It would be easier to talk about these things if there were a definitive answer to this.

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    It's a good point though - about whether "will have experienced" is an example of the future perfect tense. It certainly looks like it; it has the structure of the future perfect tense.
    Only if you accept that there is a future perfect tense in English. I don't.

    For those who like to talk of the subjunctive in English, 'I were' is the form of the past subjunctive'; 'I be' is the form of the present subjunctive,

  8. #8
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Only if you accept that there is a future perfect tense in English. I don't.

    For those who like to talk of the subjunctive in English, 'I were' is the form of the past subjunctive'; 'I be' is the form of the present subjunctive,
    OK, fine. But your answer, although informative, sidesteps the question I asked.

    For those who don't like to talk about the subjunctive in English, is it correct to say, "When you're referring to a hypothetical event, such as 'If I were rich ...', we use the past tense". I'm asking whether you would say that the first clause of "If I were rich, I would buy a mansion" is written in the past tense.

    As far as English not being Latin, I don't have a problem with calling things tenses if they play that role in grammar. The reason for this is that I don't think it's ambiguous. If it's not a tense, then it's something without a name that behaves like a tense, even though it's written with characteristic strings of auxilaries and "helper words" or whatever people call them thes days, rather than variable word endings.
    My question was probably directed more to those who call "You will have arrived by the time I get there" an example of the future perfect tense. Perhaps the opinions of such people are not worth asking for? ;)
    Last edited by Raymott; 02-Jan-2012 at 12:55.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Do we take the tense of a structure from its form or its meaning? It would be easier to talk about these things if there were a definitive answer to this.
    The disagreements about something this basic are one area where I can't help wondering whether an Academy might help, though in all probability nobody would listen. To those who think will is the future tense, it is a future perfect, albeit a special usage. To those that think there are two tenses, it is a sort of (modal) present perfect, and I am not sure how those who argue that modals aren't verbs would describe it. We're stuck with very different views of how verbs work in English, with a divide between many linguists and much teaching.

    In answer, I would say that tense is structural, so we should take it from form, though that doesn't mean that there will be agreement on what that form is.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    For those who don't like to talk about the subjunctive in English, is it correct to say, "When you're referring to a hypothetical event, such as 'If I were rich ...', we use the past tense". I'm asking whether you would say that the first clause of "If I were rich, I would buy a mansion" is written in the past tense.
    It is 'past tense (subjunctive)'. I prefer to use such terms as 'marked' or 'distancing' tense, but, if we are using traditional teminology, it must be 'past tense' - it certainly isn't 'present tense', even if it is referring to present time.

    Purists insist that, in these hypothetical conditionals, we use the subjunctive form of all verbs. However, As BE is the only verb that has a recognisably different subjunctive form, and as many speakers of BrE use the indicative even with BE (except, for some, in the phrase 'if I were you'), then I question the value of mentioning the word 'subjunctive at all.

    However , whether we use 'subjunctive' or not, it's 'past tense' - used for distancing in reality.

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