As a writer, knowing how to use the different tenses of verbs is a crucial skill that must be mastered in order to communicate your ideas clearly and accurately.
What Is the Future Perfect Tense?
The future perfect tense is used when you want to talk about an action which will be completed between the present and a given time in the future. For example:
- Emily’s dad will have left for work by the time she wakes up.
- At three o’clock, she will have baked cookies for the boys to eat as soon as they get home from school.
- By the time the clock strikes midnight, the robbers will have already broken into the mansion.
In the above examples, the actions in future perfect tense happen BEFORE the actions written in simple perfect tense:
- Emily’s dad leaving happens before Emily wakes up
- Her baking cookies happens before the boys get home from school
- The robbers’ breaking into the mansion happens before the clock strikes midnight.
The Difference Between Simple Future and Future Perfect
The simple future tense refers to events that occur in a future time, whether or not that time is specified. For example:
- We will go to the movies.
- The ladies will have their Knitting Club meeting tonight.
- The weather report says there will be a thunderstorm in the next day or two.
In contrast, the future perfect tense refers to an event that happens, also in a future time, but before another future action or set time. For example:
- We will have gone to the movies by the time you get back from work.
- The ladies will have had their Knitting Club meeting by 9 o’clock tonight.
In the first example, the action of going to the movies happens before the other person gets back from work. They are both future events, but the first one, in future perfect tense, occurs before the second.
In the second example, the Knitting Club meeting and 9 o’clock tonight are both future events, but the first action, which is having the meeting, happens before the second event.
In the third example, the arrival of the thunderstorm and the day mentioned, Friday, are both in the future. But the forecast is that the thunderstorm will have happened before Friday comes.
Important note, though: in the third example above, it’s possible to use either simple future or future perfect tense, because the word “before” effectively differentiates the timeframe of the two actions:
- The weather report says there will have been a thunderstorm before Friday.
- The weather report says there will be a thunderstorm before Friday.
As you can see, these two sentences mean the same thing.
However, contrast that with the following two sentences:
- At seven o’clock, Melissa will leave the party.
- At seven o’clock, Melissa will have left the party.
In this case, using simple future and the future perfect tense makes a world of difference: in the first sentence, Melissa is set to leave the party at the time stated; in the second, her leaving occurs before the time stated.
How Do You Write Future Perfect Tense?
Forming the future perfect tense is simple. You can just use:
subject + will have + the past participle of the verb
As a review, you can form the past participle of regular verbs by adding –ed. For irregular verbs, the endings may be -en, -t, -d, or -n. For example:
Present – Past – Part Participle
- walk – walked – walked
- talk – talked – talked
- go – went – gone
- do – did – done
- sit – sat – sat
- will have walked
- will have talked
- will have gone
- will have done
- will have sat
Making the Future Perfect Tense Negative
You can write your future perfect tense sentence in the negative by simply inserting not between will and have:
- When we drop the boys off at your place tomorrow, they will not have had breakfast.
- The thieves will not have gotten past the main gate before my collie Laddie apprehends them.
- The bell will not have rung before the kids start to get rowdy.
You may also contract will and not into won’t.
Prepositional Phrases Often Used with Future Perfect
One way of identifying the need for the future perfect tense is when you find some of the prepositional phrases that often accompany the tense.
- by [what time]
- [How much time] from now
- at [set time]
- by the time [event]
- when [event]
- as soon as [event]
- By noon, he will have left the office.
- At midnight, the children will have gone to bed.
- By the time their parents get home, Lisa and Mona will have finished their preparations for a surprise dinner.
- When the coronavirus ends, we will have learned to work from home.
Future Perfect Tense Quiz
Test your knowledge by rewriting the following phrases in the Future Perfect Tense:
- will go to work
- will finish the cake
- will submit their report
- will take the bus out of town
- will write a letter home
- will send off an email
- will call the police
- will clean the house
- will end the party
- will leave the gym
- will have gone to work
- will have finished the cake
- will have submitted their report
- will have taken the bus out of town
- will have written a letter home
- will have sent off an email
- will have called the police
- will have cleaned the house
- will have ended the party
- will have left the gym
Writing About Future Events
By studying the tips and examples above, you’ll be able to use the future perfect tense with ease. If you need more practice, think of two events in the future and try writing down one sentence about each pair of events.
Always remember: the event that happens first in the pair uses the future perfect tense.
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If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- How to Use Present Perfect Tense: Rules and Examples
- How to Use Past Perfect Tense: Rules and Examples
- Past Progressive Tense: When and How to Use This Verb Form
- Was vs. Were: When to Use Each in the Past and Subjunctive
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