Grammar > Verb tenses > Future perfect

Future perfect tense

By Alena Lien, 14 Oct 2020

Other phrases and tenses that are used to talk about the future (i.e. present simple and present continuous with future meanings, future simple and "going to") are usually used to imply when decisions and arrangements are made for the future. The emphasis for the future perfect is about what happened in the future.

Content:

Form

To use the future perfect, all sentences and questions require some kind of time reference

Affirmative sentences

These are usually formed with the subject followed by "will have" and the past participle of the main verb. "Have" does not change with the third person singular form.

[subject] + ["will have"] + [past participle of main verb]

 

It is possible to have the verb "to have" as the main verb.

  • "She will have had more cake by then."

  • "When I arrive, they will have finished dinner."

Negative sentences

 

These are formed with "will not have," and this can be contracted to "won't have."

 

[subject] + ["will not/won't have"] + [past participle of main verb]

 

  • "By the time I'm done, Wally won't have completed all his assignments."

Questions

 

These are formed starting with "will" or with question words.

 

Question words are:

  • Who

  • What

  • When

  • Why 

  • Where

  • Which

  • How

 

["will"] + [subject] + ["have"] + [past participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["will"] + [subject] + ["have"] + [past participle of main verb]

  • "Will she have called by then?"

  • "How will they have gotten rid of all the rubbish before we get back?"

It is possible to make negative questions even though their use is quite specific. The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. However, contracted forms are preferred in general.

 

Contracted form:

["won't"] + [subject] + ["have"] + [past participle of main verb]

[question words] + ["won't"] + [subject] + ["have"} + [past participle of main verb]

 

  • "Won't she have called by then?"

  • "Why won't they have gotten rid of all the rubbish before we get back?"

 

Full form: 

["will"] + [subject] + ["not have"] + [past participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["will"] + [subject] + ["not have"] + [past participle of main verb]

 

  • "Will she not have called by then?"

  • "Why will they not have gotten rid of all the rubbish before we get back?"

Use vs its Real uses

Most grammatical explanations will say that the future perfect only has 1 use. I did find a few ways of explaining how the future perfect is used.

 

We look back to the past from a point in the future. 

This is not a bad way of looking at it, but some people may find it hard to imagine time-travelling every time they try to use the future perfect. 

 

To say that an action will be completed before a certain time in the future.

To me, this makes more sense because you are making assumptions about the future.

 

 

Although the future perfect is taught in English textbooks, on a practical level, it's not commonly use. I have even read an article saying that native speakers do not use this, but I disagree. I think we do - just not very often.

 

To help you understand how this might be practically used in everyday English, here are some uses from my own understanding of how you can practically use the future perfect.

1.   To talk about completed actions before a certain time in the future.

 

  • "The movie will have started by the time we arrive."

2.   To make predictions.

 

  • "They will probably have gone to the airport by 6am."

  • "I'm hoping the rain will have stopped by the time we arrive."

3.   To express future plans and expectations.

 

  • "By the time I'm 30, I will have completed my PhD."

  • "The builder said he will have finished the roof before the end of the week."

 

4.   To confirm expectations.

 

  • "Will she have arrived at the airport by 6am?"

  • "Won't she have arrived at the airport by 6am?"

Timeline

A way of thinking about how to use perfect tenses is by asking "Until this point, what actions are complete?" This is the same for both the present and future perfect tenses. 

 
 
 
25_edited.jpg

Comparison to other future tenses/phrases

Future perfect vs future simple

Future perfect:

  • "At 7pm, we'll have finished dinner."

This means that at 7pm, dinner is finished.

Future simple:

  • "At 7pm, we'll have dinner."

This means when it is 7pm, that is when dinner starts.

The future continuous and future simple can be interchangeable, but sometimes you have to clarify the time references.

 

Future perfect:

  • "They'll have been married for 25 years next month."

 

Future simple:

  • "They'll be married for 25 years next month."

 

 

Future perfect:

  • "The movie will have started by the time we get to the cinema."

Future simple:

  • The movie will start before we get to the cinema."

Future perfect vs "I do," "I'm doing," & "going to"

The future perfect cannot be used interchangeably with other phrases when talking about the future. The future perfect refers to completed actions in the future, and the others are about future plans

 

Future perfect:

  • "I will have met Jake by the end of the day."

 

Present simple (future):

  • "I meet Jake for lunch at 2pm."

 

Present continuous (future):

  • "I'm meeting Jake for lunch."

 

Going to:

  • "I'm going to meet Jake for lunch."