Future Perfect Tense in Spanish

Tense used not just for future, but also for speculation on the past

Guayaquil, Ecuador
Habré viajado a Guayaquil antes de julio. (I will have traveled to Guayaquil before July.).

(YoTuT / Creative Commons)

The future perfect tense is normally used to refer to an event or action that hasn't happened yet but is expected or predicted to occur before another occurrence. In a sentence such as "By this time tomorrow, I will have left," "will have left" is in the future perfect tense.

In English, the future perfect tense is expressed, as in the example above, by using "will have" (or "shall have") followed by the past participle.

The Spanish future perfect tense is formed in much the same way as English's: the future indicative form of haber followed by the past participle. So "I will have left" would be "habré salido."

An Example: Estudiar in Future Perfect Tense

Using the past participle of estudiar (to study) as an example, here is the full conjugation of the future perfect tense:

  • habré estudiado — I will have studied
  • habrás estudiado — you (informal singular) will have studied
  • habrá estudiado — he, she, you (formal singular) will have studied)
  • habremos estudiado — we will have studied
  • habréis estudiado — you (informal plural, seldom used in Latin America) will have studied
  • habrán estudiado — they, you (formal plural) will have studied

Examples of the Future Perfect

In these sample sentences, the Spanish and English perfect tense are used in much the same way.

  • Habré visto pronto esta película un millón de veces o algo así. (I soon will have seen this film a million times or something like that.)
  • La universidad habrá perdido más de 6.000 alumnos en el 2016, según un estudio. (The university will have lost more than 6,000 students by 2016, according to a study.)
  • Si defendemos nuestro país habremos ganado el futuro. (If we defend our country, we will have gained the future.)
  • Casi 50 millones de trabajadores habrán muerto de sida en este año si no mejora el acceso a los medicamentos. (Almost 50 million workers will have died of AIDS this year if we don't improve access to medicine.)

Suppositional Use of the Future Perfect

Because the future tense in Spanish can sometimes be used to indicate likelihood or supposition, the same is true when haber is used in the future tense. In such cases, the future perfect tense can often be translated as "must have," "may have," or "might have" to refer to something that has already occurred:

  • Paula habrá sabido nada de él. (Paula must have known nothing about him.)
  • Habrás visto la nueva página web que escribí. (You must have seen the new web page I wrote.)
  • ¿Adónde habrán ido mis caros amigos? (Where might my dear friends have gone to?)
  • No sé lo que ha pasado. Se habrá roto el motor. (I don't know what has happened. Perhaps the motor got broken.) 
  • No sé que habrá pasado. (I don't know what could have happened.)

Note that in these suppositional statements, the grammatical future tense is used to events that happened (or might have happened) in the past.

In the negative form, typically by using no, the future perfect forms a sort of rhetorical statement or question. In other words, the statement or question becomes less speculative and assumes agreement by the listener.

  • No habrán perdido la esperanza en este mundo. (They couldn't have lost hope in this world.)
  • No sé de dónde habrán salido estos datos. (I don't know where this data might have come from.)
  • No habremos comprendido la importancia de las instrucciones. (We couldn't have understood the importance of the instructions.)

A Related Tense: The Conditional Perfect

In Spanish, the future and conditional tenses are closely related; in fact, the conditional tense is sometimes known as the future hypothetical.

As such, the conditional perfect is often used in sentences of the type shown in these examples to indicate a conjecture.

  • Si hubiéramos comido la pizza, habríamos tenido más energía. (If we had eaten the pizza, we would have had more energy.)
  • Si fueran inteligentes, habrían sabido que era una broma. (If they were intelligent, they would have known it was a joke.)

As with the future perfect, the conditional perfect as a speculative tense can refer to past events (or supposed past events).

Key Takeaways

  • The future perfect is formed by using the simple future tenses of haber followed by a past participle.
  • The Spanish future perfect can be used in much the same way as the English future perfect, which takes the form of "will have + verb + participle."
  • Because the simple future tense can be used in Spanish to make speculative statements, the same can be done with the future perfect.