How to use the future perfect tense in English

Learning May 15, 2023

One of the first things you will learn in English is how to correctly express your thoughts and ideas in the correct tense. Using the correct tense when speaking or writing is very important.

If you accidentally use the wrong tense, what you are trying to tell someone will be unclear and confusing. Fun fact, did you know that there are 12 different tenses in the English language? But today, we will only be looking at the future perfect tense.

In the English language, verbs are used to indicate when something is happening, but it is important that we know at what time the verb is happening.

The future perfect tense is used when we want to refer to something that will have happened before another event that will also happen in the future. 

For example, “I will have taken out the trash before my wife gets home from work.”

Let’s have a closer look at this sentence to better understand what it is telling us. The verb, “taken out”, is used in the future tense. This tells us that the trash will at some time in the future be taken out. 

The verb used in the perfect tense normally refers to an event or action that has already been done. Most language learners have trouble with the future perfect tense because of the rule applied to perfect verb tense.

But don’t worry! All you need to remember is that the future perfect tense is used to indicate that a future action or event is likely to be completed before another action or event in the future begins.

Now that you know what the future perfect tense is, let’s look at how to make our own future perfect tense sentence. The grammatical structure of the future perfect tense is:

Subject + will (auxiliary verb) + have (auxiliary verb) + main verb = Future perfect tense

For example: “I will have finished my book by 4 pm.”

“You will have received it by then.”

Something you should remember is that when you want to use a future perfect tense sentence using negatives you must use “won’t” and “won’t’ve” instead of “will”.

For example: “Peter won’t have arrived by then.”

“Mom and Dad won’t’ve seen us yet.”

When not to use the future perfect tense:

We only use the future perfect tense when talking about actions or events that have a time limit. If you don’t refer to a deadline, then you do not use the future perfect tense. Instead, you use the simple future tense.

For example: “She will leave”, instead of “She will have left.”

The time limit can be an exact time (10 am.) or it can be unclear (next month). What matters is that the action must be done sometime in the future.

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