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This month’s blog is about the future perfect tense. This particular tense is one that a lot of language learners seem to struggle with.

To form the future perfect tense we use ‘will have‘ and a past participle. For example, «I will have been«, «he will have done«, «they will have finished» etc…

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We use the future perfect tense when we are thinking about the time before and up to a specific point in the future. It could be between now and a point in the future or it could be between one point and another point in the future.

For example, if we are travelling home after work at 6.50p.m and we know that our favourite television programme is on television at 7 o’clock and it lasts for half an hour, but we don’t think that we will arrive home until about 7.45p.m, we can say «it will have finished by the time we get home«. In this situation we are thinking about what will happen between now and the time that we arrive home, and at that particular time (7.45p.m) the tv programme will already be finished

Some students find it difficult to understand this tense because it involves using auxiliary verbs and past participles but it isn’t as difficult to understand, when you think carefully about how we use it. Basically, we are just thinking about things that will happen before or no later than a certain time in the future, either things that have not started yet or things that are in progress but have not finished yet.

Here is another example: «The shop will have closed before 10 o’clock«. In this case we know that the shop usually closes earlier than ten o’clock, so we can say that at some time between now and ten o’clock, the shop will close. To communicate this we use the future perfect because it is something that hasn’t happened yet, but will happen between now and ten o’clock.

Just imagine something that you know will be finished at a particular time in the future but hasn’t happened yet or begun such as your dinner and to communicate that it will have happened before or no later than a specific point in the future, we use the future perfect tense. For example, if you have your dinner at more or less nine o’clock every evening and you are usually finished eating by half past nine, then you can say «I will have finished eating my dinner at half past nine«. This means that at 9.30p.m your dinner will already be finished, perhaps you will finish it at 9.15p.m or 9.20p.m or 9.25p.m or even 9.30p.m but no later than 9.30p.m.

The difference between the future simple and future perfect is that if we use the future simple and say «I will eat my dinner at 9.30p.m» it means you will start eating dinner at that time, but if you say «I will have eaten dinner at 9.30p.m» it means that at that time your dinner will already be finished.

Try the practice exercises!


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Glenn Harman