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  1. #11
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    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.
    I’m happier with that practice than with pretending that just because English doesn’t have inflectional tenses, it doesn’t have tenses. I had no problem understanding the OPs question. OK, the future perfect might not be a “tense”. We could call it something else. But it seems that if English only has two basic tenses, there’s not much to be lost in using the term in English for constructions that most students and teachers understand as being tenses – ie. verb forms that refer to the time of action of events.

    In that practice, there is a future perfect tense, it is used in OPs example, but we are left with explaining that there are uses of the future perfect tense that don’t refer to the future – which I think is preferable to maintaining that we don’t have tenses.
    Leaving off the word “tense” (It’s in the future perfect, the subjunctive, etc.) is only avoiding and postponing the problem.

    (I note that Swan calls them “verb forms ‘tenses’” (2005. p.5) These verb forms ‘tenses’ have specific structures and typical uses, but can be used with other meanings. The future perfect is a “verb form ‘tense’” so the correct answer to the OP’s problem is that the future perfect ‘tense’ occasionally refers to situations which do not involve completed actions in the future.
    But I can’t see a future (in ESL teaching) in claiming that there’s no future perfect tense, but there is a future perfect verb form ‘tense’. Should be correcting “tense” to “ ‘tense’ “ or “verb form”.

  2. #12
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    I wish we called it* the future anterior, as in French. Perfect implies complete (utterly complete) but when we say it, or use it, we're predicting that something will have happened prior to a certain time.

    As for tenses not existing, I wonder about that debate. Are we saying the tenses that aren't really tenses are moods? Or something else?
    Last edited by konungursvia; 03-Jan-2012 at 01:37. Reason: *it, rather than in.

  3. #13
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I wish we called in the future anterior, as in French. Perfect implies complete (utterly complete) but when we say it, or use it, we're predicting that something will have happened prior to a certain time.

    As for tenses not existing, I wonder about that debate. Are we saying the tenses that aren't really tenses are moods? Or something else?
    I think we're doing what you just did. Call something the "future anterior". Don't use a noun, and you can't get it wrong. I've done this often enough myself, by referring to something as the conditional or the subjunctve.
    However, students generally don't have this degree of guile.

  4. #14
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I’m happier with that practice than with pretending that just because English doesn’t have inflectional tenses, it doesn’t have tenses. I had no problem understanding the OPs question. OK, the future perfect might not be a “tense”. We could call it something else. But it seems that if English only has two basic tenses, there’s not much to be lost in using the term in English for constructions that most students and teachers understand as being tenses – ie. verb forms that refer to the time of action of events.
    A lot of the time, there's very little difference in naming things- if you talk about the present perfect, the two-tensers consider it to be the perfect aspect of the present tense and others see it as a separate tense, but there's not that much difference. The problem is more with the future, but simply talking about future forms rather than future tenses avoids the terminology problem. When teaching will, I don't refer to it as a tense, but am happy to let learners say it is.

    I think that the two-tense view, offers a more elegant and accurate view of the way verbs work in English, especially with the idea of changing them from present & past to get away from the idea that they are governed purely by time- calling the past tense the remote or distant form allows for probability, social distance as well as time. However, this view remains a minority one among teachers, learners and most speakers- linguists have failed to take the public with them on this issue, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

  5. #15
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by dqdqf View Post
    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
    The VP in question has the form of what is generally referred to, for the sake of analytical convenience, as the future perfect tense, but in fact is merely an instance of the use of modal 'will' to denote probability in the mind of the speaker.

    In this case, that probability relates to a putative past event, and is consequently perfective in form.

  6. #16
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    This discussion would probably be better in the Linguistics forum, but, we started it here, so ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I’m happier with that practice than with pretending that just because English doesn’t have inflectional tenses, it doesn’t have tenses.
    We two-tense people do believe that English has tenses - the unmarked/uninflected tense (usually known as the present simple) and the marked/inflected/distancing tense (the past simple).
    [...]In that practice, there is a future perfect tense, it is used in OPs example, but we are left with explaining that there are uses of the future perfect tense that don’t refer to the future – which I think is preferable to maintaining that we don’t have tenses.
    On the other hand, telling students that English has a future and a future perfect tense causes them enormous difficulties. There are several Ways of Expressing the Future in English, and the one using 'will' is not the most common in everyday English; the many constructions with 'will ...' and 'will have...' that do not refer to the future are often seen as exceptions or problems. If students learn from the start that 'will', like most of the modals, has two main clusters of meanings (sometimes labelled the deontic and epistemic), then we do not avoid and/or postpone the problem - we remove it.
    [...] The future perfect is a “verb form ‘tense’” so the correct answer to the OP’s problem is that the future perfect ‘tense’ occasionally refers to situations which do not involve completed actions in the future.
    It not infrequently refers to such situations. If learners know that one of the meanings of 'will' is the expression of certainty, then everything falls into place.
    But I can’t see a future (in ESL teaching) in claiming that there’s no future perfect tense, but there is a future perfect verb form ‘tense’.
    Is it not simpler to see that the certainty meaning of 'will' coupled with 'have + third form (past participle. naturally covers situations that are, in some languages, covered by a future perfect tense?

    However many tenses one considers there to be in English, the fact is that the correlation between tense and time is often pretty weak. If learners know from the start that one tense form is used almost as a default, and the other is used to 'distance' in (1) vividness in time ( Fred walks/walked into a bar...), in probability/reality (If he goes/went to Berlin, he'll/d have to learn German) or directness (I wonder/wondered if you have/had a moment); and if they learn about the deontic and epistemic uses of the modals (not necessarily meeting those labels) then the whole English tense system becomes far more straightforward, in my opinion. This is not just a theoretical idea. This is how I introduced verb tenses to learners in the last ten years of my teaching career. My students appeared to understand it very easily.

  7. #17
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    My students appeared to understand it very easily.
    I have no doubt. Because your students got it consistently from someone who had these ideas arranged according to a consistent system. Your system seems to actually require English to have two only tenses, and would perhaps be beyond the majority of English teachers, let alone learners, especially if they are presented elsewhere with a plethora of tenses. You'd need to have some guarantee of continuity with your students for it to work.
    Do you know of a current commonly-used grammar book for ESL learners that presents tense that way?

  8. #18
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    I wouldn't call it future perfect, although I don't have any qualms about using the expression (and see little point in discussing that qualmlessness .) As raymott said originally, it is future perfect in form - but the will and the have don't belong together, although they happen to be rubbing shoulders.

    As the OP said, the marketing bod is saying you have experienced [that's a fact] and therefore you will have certain expectations/confidence in the service [that's a supposition]. Similarly, Hamish might say to Dougal 'You'll have had your tea" - although his evidence would be shakier than the airline's ticketing database, so he's saying 'It's a reasonable assumption that you have had your tea, [so I won't offer you any]'. The only bit of futurity in Hamish's statement is the implicit won't.

    ("I haif said. Quot say they? Lat them say" as some marquis* said [approximately - they didn't much care about spelling in those days], or - as Pilate very nearly said - Quod dixi dixi. )

    b

    PS* Not a marquis, a marischal (whatever that is - something Scottish I think). The saying is the motto of the Keith family; George (the 5th marischal) founded a college in Aberdeen in 1597 (which has the motto engraved somewhere).
    Last edited by BobK; 04-Jan-2012 at 15:53. Reason: PS added

  9. #19
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Raymott: Ihave no doubt. Because your students got it consistently from someone who had these ideas arranged according to a consistent system. Your system seems to actually require English to have two only tenses,
    5jj: It requires this because most serious writers on English grammar present this as the situation in English.

    R:
    and would perhaps be beyond the majority of English teachers, let alone learners, especially if they are presented elsewhere with a plethora of tenses.
    The ignorance of many teachers of English about the facts of English grammar has always been a wonder to me. I accept it with those teachers who believe that language should be learnt communicatively, without any use of grammar rules/explanations, but if teachers are going to teach grammar, then they should do it correctly, in my opinion,

    R: You'd need to have some guarantee of continuity with your students for it to work.
    5jj:If a learner has been taught incorrectly, I feel under no obligation to continue with this for the sake of continuity.
    R: Do you know of a current commonly-used grammar book for ESL learners that presents tense that way?
    5. Unfortunately, I don't. The writers of these books seem to be be ignoring the thoughts of:

    Aitken, Rosemary (1992) Teaching Tenses, Walton-on-Thames, Thomas Nelson
    Biber, Douglas; Johansson, Stig; Leech, Geoffrey; Conrad, Susan and Finegan, Edward (1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English, Harlow: Longman
    Carter, Ronald & McCarthy, Michael (2006) Cambridge Grammar of English, Cambridge: CUP
    Chalker, Sylvia (1984) Current English Grammar, London: Macmillan
    Chalker, Sylvia and Weiner, Edmund(1993) The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, 2nd edn, Oxford: OUP
    Christophersen, Paul & Sandved Arthur O. (1969) An Advanced English Grammar, Basingstoke: Macmillan
    Huddleston, Rodney & Pullum, Geoffrey K (2002) The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: CUP
    Lewis, Michael (1985) The English Verb, Hove: LTP
    Palmer, Frank R and Greenbaum, Sidney in McArthur, Tom (1992) The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford: OUP.
    Quirk, Randolph, Greenbaum, Sidney, Leech, Geoffrey and Svartik, Jan (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London: Longman
    Yule, George (1998) Explaining English Grammar, Oxford: OUP.

    But, "people find it extremely difficult to drop the notion of 'future tense' [...] from their mental vocabulary, and to look for other ways of talking about the grammatical realities of the Enlish verb".
    Crystal, David (2003.196)The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language (2nd edn) , Cambridge: CUP

  10. #20
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Re: can you use future perfect to refer to a past event?

    Well some of us are losing sight of the meaning of the word 'tense' > Fr. temps > L. tempus, time.

    If we accept that the distinguishing feature of the future, with respect to the present, is its later time, then any "way of referring to the future" may be regarded as a tense, by anyone who prefers this simpler definition over others like those espoused by 5jj.

    Some people even call moods tenses. I don't care. As long as we know what we're talking about.

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