Future Perfect (Verbs)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

futuristic woman
The future perfect has been gradually falling out of use in English. As Dan Mulvey points out, "[M]any writers believe that the simple future expresses what the future perfect expresses, with no change in meaning" (Grammar the Easy Way, 2002). Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images

In English grammar, the future perfect is a verb form that expresses action completed by a specified time in the future.

The future perfect is formed by combining will have or shall have with a past participle—for example, I will have completed a rough draft of the chapter by Friday. 

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "There is no doubt that the pupils will have gained new knowledge and expertise by the end of the lesson."
    (Tony Swainston, Effective Teachers in Secondary Schools. Continuum, 2008)
     
  • "By the end of this week, I'll have gained at least fifteen pounds."
    (Rachel Stuhler, Absolutely True Lies. Touchstone, 2015)
  • Future Tense vs. Future Perfect
    "We use the future perfect tense when we want to emphasize the 'no-later-than' time of the completion of a future action. Compare the meaning of the following sentences, the first in the future tense, the second in the future perfect tense:
     
    • Future: We will break for lunch around 12:30.
    • Future perfect: We will have broken for lunch by 12:30.
    The future tense sentence merely states when some future action will take place. The future perfect sentence puts a 'no-later-than' time limit on when the action will have been completed. We could break for lunch at noon or even 11:00, but in any event, we will have broken for lunch no later than 12:30."
    (M. Lester and L. Beason, McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2005)
  • "After today—or before 5 p.m. tomorrow at the latest—she will have paid off her mortgage."
    (A.L. Kennedy, "Late in Life." All the Rage. New Harvest, 2014)
     
  • "If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."
    (Marcus Aurelius)
  • "You may win this war, Colonel, but when it is over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your victory will taste as bitter as defeat."
    (Salome Jens as Shapeshifter in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1999)
  • Uses of the Future Perfect
    "The future perfect is used in reference to future situations, as in (36a), in conditional situations, as in (36b), and in generalizing contexts, as in (36c).
    (36a) Next month I will have been Director General for 4 years.
    (36b) If a retailer buys jeans from a wholesaler at a cost of £10 a pair and then charges the customer £15 a pair, he will have made £5 profit on each pair of jeans he sells.
    (36c) Students who prepare a dissertation are allocated a supervisor. By this stage, formal lectures will normally have ceased.
    States in the future perfect may take time adjuncts with for, as in (36a), and events in the future perfect may take time adjuncts with by, as in (36b) and (36c).
    (Günter Radden and René Dirven, Cognitive English Grammar. John Benjamins, 2007)
     
  • Two-Timing Verb Constructions
    "Tenses like the future perfect (e.g. will have left) and the conditional perfect tense (would have left) express two temporal relations at once: the time of the situation is represented as anterior to an orientation time which is itself represented as posterior to another time. In the case of the future perfect this 'other time' is the temporal zero-point. This means that the future perfect is an absolute-relative tense: it relate the time of its situation to a time of orientation--this is the relative component--which is itself related to the zero point--this is the absolute component in the meaning of the future perfect."
    (Renaat Declerck with Susan Reed and Bert Cappelle, The Grammar of the English Tense System: A Comprehensive Analysis, Volume 1. Mouton de Gruyter, 2006)
     
  • The Lighter Side of Language: Demetri Martin on the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect
    "'I am the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect.'

    "Scrooge stared at the ghost.

    "'I'm sorry. Did you say the "Ghost of Christmas Future"?'

    "'No, Ebenezer, I  said that I am the "Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect,"' replied the Spirit in a most ominous tone.

    "Now Scrooge, being a man of considerable education, knew immediately that this apparition was of a less-common conjugation, one which employed helping verbs of some sort; still, he could not remember the tense's rudiments.

    "'I see,' replied Ebenezer, trying to conceal his ignorance.

    "The Spirit moved closer. 'Do you know why I am here?'

    "Scrooge thought for a moment. 'To offer me, Spirit, some glimpse of what is to come?'

    "The ghost hovered for a moment and peered at Ebenezer. 'No. That is incorrect. I am here, Ebenezer Scrooge, to show you what shall have happened to you on a Christmas that will have passed at some point in the future.'

    "'Ah, yes, of course. Right,' replied Scrooge.

    "The Spirit continued. 'You shall see after certain future things have happened, what will have become of you after that.'"
    (Demetri Marti, "A Christmas Carol (Deleted Scene)." This Is a Book. Grand Central, 2011)
  • The Lighter Side of Language: Douglas Adams on Tenses and Time Travel
    "One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. . . .

    "The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

    "Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up. In fact, in later editions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

    "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term 'Future Perfect' has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be."
    (Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Pan Books, 1980)