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I know the SOT (sequence of tenses) rule and how to apply it to object clauses, but I have some confusion about the appropriate tense in a relative clause. For example, in the sentences below, which interpretation is right?

  1. I will see the girl that is walking.

Is walking now, or can it be either now or simultaneous with seeing?

  1. I will see the girl that will walk.

Is walking later than seeing, or can it be either later than seeing or later than now?

  1. I will see the girl that walked.

Is walking only before now, or can it also be before seeing which is in the future?

  • All forms of your sentence are a bit unusual, I'm having a hard time envisioning the exact scenario: how do you know you will see something in the future? Doyou know for sure she will be walking, and you intend to go see her do so? Depending on exactly what you mean here, I'd probably go with "I will see the girl walking." or "I plan to be there when she walks" or something. Or "At that time of day, I usually see a girl walking..." – BradC Jul 24 '17 at 16:16
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Relative pronouns pull in an object or complement of previous clause and let it be the subject of a following clause.

But they don't impose special rules on tenses, it's just about making logical sense. Often times if things don't make complete sense in so many words, various "blanks" are filled in by the listener/reader. There aren't rules per se as much as different meanings depending on the combination of tenses you select.

I will see the girl that is walking - There's a girl walking now and you will see this same girl later.

I will see the girl that will walk - There are other girls that you could see in the future, but you specifically are going to see the one that is going to be walking.

I will see the girl that walked - A girl has previously walked and you will see that same girl later.

I saw the girl that is walking - There's a girl walking now and you saw her before.

I saw the girl that will walk - There's a girl that plans to walk sometime in the future, and you saw her before.

I saw the girl that walked - A girl has previously walked, and you've already seen her.

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  1. I will see the girl that is walking.

Is walking now? Yes

can it be simultaneous with seeing? Not as written. You would need to write I will see the girl that will be walking to make it simultaneous with seeing. Also acceptable is I will be seeing the girl that will be walking. The first implies that you will see her for some brief part of her walk, and the second implies that you will see her for a larger portion of her walk - perhaps if she's walking in a stadium around a track and you're sitting in the bleachers you can easily observe her entire walk, for instance. You probably want to avoid I will be seeing the girl that will walk because, unless you're dating her, it starts to sound creepy - it implies that you will be observing her for a period longer than her walk.

  1. I will see the girl that will walk.

Is walking later than seeing, or can it be either later than seeing or later than now? In this sentence, walking is later than now, and seeing is later than now. A listener might assume that these two events are likely to occur together, but there's no requirement that they occur together to make this statement. One could, for instance, plan to see the girl in 5 minutes and she will walk in 3 days, or else see the girl in 3 days and she will walk in 5 minutes, and in both cases the sentence above is acceptable. If you want to be clear that they will occur simultaneously then I already gave you that sentence above. If you want to be clear that she will walk, and then you will see her, you can say I will see the girl that will have walked. If you want to be clear that you will see her and then she will walk, you can say I will have seen the girl that will walk.

  1. I will see the girl that walked.

Is walking only before now, or can it also be before seeing which is in the future? Walking is only before now. If you want walking to be before seeing in the future, use the sentence I gave you above: I will see the girl that will have walked.

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