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My language (Russian) has just three tenses: past, present, future. Very convenient and simple.

Instead of

I will have been studying English for three years this summer.

we say (literally)

I will study English for already three years this summer.

And it's perfectly comprehensible, thanks to the context. Note the word already which is normally added in this case, but it can even be omitted and the sentence remains comprehensible, because there is only one way to interpret this sentence.

How often do native English-speakers use peculiar tenses like future perfect continuous or present perfect continuous, etc.? Can they occasionally be avoided/ignored because it may be hard to say/comprehend them? Can they sometimes be replaced with simpler forms (like in my Russian example above).

closed as primarily opinion-based by Michael Harvey, Eddie Kal, Varun Nair, choster, Hellion Dec 4 '18 at 14:21

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    In general, native English speakers know how to use tenses properly. We absorb them from infancy. If a native speaker spoke like your example, people would think he was foreign, Russian maybe. – Michael Harvey Dec 2 '18 at 14:57
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    comprehensible: you might want to change that. And please use capital letters for names of any languages. The literal example you give is gibberish. Russian has other difficulties, like declensions. We have zero of those. Would Russian make sense if you used the nominative in every case?? – Lambie Dec 2 '18 at 15:18
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    As I understand it (please correct me if I'm wrong!), the Russian tense system is complemented by an aspect system in which each verb has distinct perfective and imperfective versions -- which I assume is employed as unconsciously as English users employ the perfect, progressive and futurive constructions. – StoneyB Dec 2 '18 at 15:42
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    @StoneyB you are absolutely correct. unconsciously - after I had seen this word (correct tense btw? :) ), I instantly realized that yes, Russian tense system is not so simple. Other than the three tenses it does have perfective and imperfective forms: Я буду учить / Я выучу is the same for I will have been studying / I will have studied (but I was unconscious about these forms because they seemed so simple/insignificant to me, and in school these subjects are not touched greatly). – Nurbol Alpysbayev Dec 2 '18 at 15:55
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    I suggest that the reason you see these English forms so rarely is primarily that the occasions for using them are relatively rare! – StoneyB Dec 3 '18 at 12:29
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The future perfect is probably the least used tense in English, but it is commonly used and understood.

"I'll have done it before you get here" might be said by any person who speaks standard US English.

The future progressive is used pervasively.

Any attempt to speak English using only the simple past, simple present, and simple future will be highly unidiomatic.

  • @StoneyB interesting. out of which the perfect developed are you saying that future perfect tense historically developed by future-simple sentences like this? – Nurbol Alpysbayev Dec 2 '18 at 15:15
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    @NurbolAlpysbayev English has no future-simple, only a modal future; it has only two morphological tenses, past and non-past. Actually, the perfect construction is believed to have developed out of the resultative construction, in which the participle acts as a predicate adjective modifying the object. Past and present perfect are sorta built into that; the future perfect evolved when the language evolved the futurive uses of the modals shall and will. – StoneyB Dec 2 '18 at 15:27
  • @StoneyB Although your writing was hard for me, I got the main idea, what evolved from what. Things like these are fascinating! They also help in understanding why things work exactly this way, and this cements the (language) skills. Thanks! – Nurbol Alpysbayev Dec 2 '18 at 15:37
  • @stoney Agreed. But "I'll have done it before you get here" is a future perfect and idiomatic. But I shall edit my answer. Thanks. – Jeff Morrow Dec 2 '18 at 15:59
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    This answer is certainly correct, but here's an anecdote for you. One day in my intro to syntax class in undergrad, the professor, a native Persian speaker, said that she'd found an example of a highly complex tense in the textbook and wanted to know whether we native English speakers really tolerated it. The sentence was: "She had been being beaten." Only myself and one other student realized that this was fine. The other couple dozen students rejected it. So I think when you push the envelope, even native speakers (at least young ones who are not well-read) start to question these tenses. – Luke Sawczak Dec 3 '18 at 1:35
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English speakers really do use compound tenses. Not all the time, but the alternative constructions that native speakers use often aren’t like the Russian idioms that you mention. “I will study English for already three years” is clearly non-native grammar. A native English speaker might use the future perfect progressive, or might say something like “it will be three years since I started studying X.”

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