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Are the following sentences grammatical?

They will discover that the house will have been haunted.

They discover that the house will have been haunted.

They discovered that the house will have been haunted.

  • 3
    They're all grammatically correct, but unlikely usages. The phrase "the house will have been haunted" means that at some point in the future, somebody looking back could say "the house has been haunted". That's simply a statement of fact. You could discover that fact now, or in the future, or have discovered it in the past. But all of them seem like unlikely ways to phrase something. It might help if you explained the situation you're trying to describe. – stangdon Oct 19 '16 at 13:49
  • Not trying to describe a situation. I'm wanting to know if the future perfect construction is valid there. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 19 '16 at 13:51
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    It is syntactically correct, yes. – stangdon Oct 19 '16 at 14:03
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    @TRomano: I'm not sure what you might mean by "ungrammatical". Your example usage is certainly "unidiomatic, unnecessary, confusing" and arguably the actual logic of the intended temporal relationships is unsound. Whether you must replace will have been with was is another question. Your specific example raises big problems for me on the semantic front, but I have no real difficulty with, say, You should have your car serviced regularly, otherwise when you eventually pass it on to your son, he'll find that it won't have been maintained as well as he might have liked. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 19 '16 at 15:19
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    I suppose by "viable" you mean something halfway between "grammatical" and "idiomatic", but I'm not sure how useful it is to go down to that level of detail. For all practical purposes I would say it should be enough to just note that such convoluted tense usages would almost always be "undesirable". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 19 '16 at 21:08
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+50

Certainly.

"The house will have been haunted" is obviously grammatical: it uses a passive-voice form of "to haunt" conjugated into the perfect and preceded by the modal verb "will," which indicates the future.

"They will discover/discover/discovered that" are also all grammatical. The choice between them is governed by the time of the discovery: future, non-past, or past. Since the time of discovery is logically unrelated to the time when the house will have been haunted, any of them can combine with "The house will have been haunted" to form a grammatical sentence. "Backshifting" in English is not required if a situation is still true. So as long as the house has still not been haunted yet at the time you say the sentence, it's perfectly fine to say "They discovered that the house will have been haunted," using a past-tense verb in the main clause and the non-past modal "will" in the dependent clause.

Maybe it will be clearer if we insert specific times (which I don't believe changes the grammaticality of any of the sentences):

  1. At 3:00 tomorrow, they will discover that the house will have been haunted by the time the new residents move in.

  2. In episode 2 of "Garage Ghost Hunters", they discover that the house will have been haunted by the time the new residents move in.

  3. At 3:00 yesterday, they discovered that the house will have been haunted by the time the new residents move in.

If you find the preceding sentences grammatical, I don't see any way you can find the following sentences ungrammatical:

  1. They will discover that the house will have been haunted.

  2. They discover that the house will have been haunted.

  3. They discovered that the house will have been haunted.

  • You're saying all three versions are acceptable, as they stand, without being modified in the slightest. Because that is what the OP is asking. – Mari-Lou A Oct 19 '16 at 15:44
  • @Mari-LouA: Yeah, that's what my I was trying to say. – sumelic Oct 19 '16 at 15:45
  • But you added the time expression "by the time" which is absent from the original examples. Of course your modified examples make more sense. – Mari-Lou A Oct 19 '16 at 15:48
  • @Mari-LouA: My point was meant to be that they make more sense, but the grammar of the verb tenses is the same. – sumelic Oct 19 '16 at 17:50

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