I was reading this question Future pluperfect and was really interested in how real is the Future Pluperfect tense.

I found this information:

The Future Pluperfect: Double Tenses in American English Auxiliaries

This is from "The Future Pluperfect: Double Tenses in American English Auxiliaries" by Carole E. Chaski. American Speech. Vol. 70, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 3-20

The interesting part is the sentence:

  • John will had run the race by the time we arrive.

Is this information true? can we indeed use the Future Pluperfect tense the way it's used here?

  • 3
    I think these are "grammatically incorrect" instances that are only found in certain dialects. To my ear it sounds wrong, like you don't understand how to use future perfect properly. I would steer clear. – SteveES May 23 '17 at 13:41
  • @SteveES I agree with you, however, I sometimes stumble upon the term "Future pluperfect" and it seems not to let go of me. – SovereignSun May 23 '17 at 13:44
  • 3
    I've never heard anything like "John will had run the race"; slightly more normal to me is "John will have had run the race", but usually I would just say "John will have run the race". But I see that the author is talking about certain dialects, not standard English. – stangdon May 23 '17 at 14:00
  • 1
    "John will have had run the race" is (more or less) grammatical, but it is little different in meaning from "John will have run the race". So use the simpler form. – Andrew May 23 '17 at 14:14
  • 1
    Just out of curiosity: why don't you try to acquire firstly the standard English?:) – Lucian Sava May 23 '17 at 14:33

It's not standard English. The article says that it's from a North Carolina (U.S. Southern) dialect.

There are many, many regional variations on standard English grammar and vocabulary, often called "dialects". They're usually not accepted in formal writing for a broad audience. Schools usually teach children to avoid the nonstandard words and grammar, at least in a formal setting; more here.

The article is mainly concerned with how to explain "double auxiliaries" in terms of transformational grammar. Simplifying for brevity: This is a theory that all grammars of all human languages are instances of a single, mathematically pristine set of rules for generating all possible grammatical sentences. This "universal grammar" is postulated to have various "switches" that different languages turn on and off, accounting for the differences between different languages' grammars. If you're thinking that this is a dubious theory, you're not alone, but this is a matter on which people can reasonably disagree. Anyway, for the theory to be true, the postulated transformational grammar must be able to generate every possible grammatical sentence in all languages and all their dialectal variations, and be unable to generate any ungrammatical sentence in any language or dialect (given appropriate switch-settings). If the nonstandard grammar of the North Carolina dialect allows a sentence that the leading transformational grammar can't generate, this is evidence disproving the theory or else requiring that the transformational grammar be modified to include it. The article is mostly concerned with how to make this revision. From p. 12:

…given McCawley's framework, the difference between the standard dialect and the double perfective dialect can be captured as a difference in the ordering of the two cyclic rules, Tense-Replacement and Attraction-to-Tense. Since these rules are both cyclic, either can apply. In the standard dialect, Tense Replacement precedes Attraction-to-Tense; in the double perfective dialect, Attraction-to-Tense can precede Tense Replacement. This alternative ordering generates both the will had and will have had forms.

So, the information is true, but it does not mean that the future pluperfect is standard English.


Break it down this way. The pluperfect, or past perfect, denotes

"a tense of verbs used in relating past events where the action had already occurred at the time of the action of a main verb that is itself in a past tense. In English this is a compound tense formed with had plus the past participle." Collins English Dictionary http://www.dictionary.com/browse/past-perfect

Therefore the concept described in the question above, which denotes a situation relating an event which will occur earlier in the future than another future event is, by definition, not pluperfect.

On the other hand the concept is exactly what the future perfect tense exists to describe. Per Collins, the future perfect denotes

"a tense of verbs describing an action that will have been performed by a certain time. In English this is formed with will have or shall have plus the past participle."

Random House Dictionary adds the additional details that future perfect is

"perfect with respect to a temporal point of reference in time to come; completed with respect to a time in the future, especially when incomplete with respect to the present."

Therefore, "John will have run the race by the time we arrive." is both simple and correct. Attempting to mangle this construction into something approaching a hybrid of past perfect and future perfect like in the example in the question doesn't add any meaning to what is already available in the future perfect, so it creates an unnecessarily awkward construction using non-standard English that has no positive value but plenty of negative value as it can be confusing and can make the speaker sound like some backwoods inbred villain straight out of B-grade scary movie.

So to your basic question, is it real? Obviously some people can and do say it, so it's as real as slithy toves and cooties. But it adds no value. I mean you can go back to monochrome green screen Apple II computers with no hard drives and only a floppy (truly floppy) disk drive and play Zork all day while the rest of us are moving forward with our lives just as you can use this horribly mangled form if you choose. But I'm not and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else either.

  • You's dissin' on future pluperfect and Zork?? If you say I need to get an 80-column board, too, ahmo haffa downvote. ;) – Ben Kovitz May 27 '17 at 1:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.