1

She said she ... her work by evening.

Which answer is true?

  • would finish

  • would have finished

What is the difference between two answer?

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Both are grammatically correct with different meanings.

She said she would finish her work by the evening.

In this context, what she literally said was something like "I'll finish my work by the evening". She made a statement about her intentions to finish her work, and the speaker is relaying that to someone else in the future.

She said she would have finished her work by the evening.

Here, what she literally said was "I would have finished my work by the evening". She made a statement about the past, implying she didn't finish her work by the evening because of extraneous circumstances. The speaker, again, is relaying this to someone else in the future.

  • The second can also report "I will have finished my work by the evening", and that is indeed how I took it. – Colin Fine Jun 5 at 14:08
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Leaving aside the possibility that what she said was "I would have finished my work by the evening", mentioned by Christian (which didn't even occur to me as a possibility, but I concede it is a possible interpretation), the difference is the same as:

I will finish my work by this evening

vs

I will have finished my work by this evening.

As is often the case with English tenses, especially perfect tenses, there is no difference whatever in the objective events or situations that these refer to. The difference is entirely in how the speaker is choosing to relate to them temporally.

If the speaker says "I will have finished my work by the evening", she is choosing to set the temporal focus to the evening, and to look backwards from that point. If she says "I will finish my work by the evening", she is not setting any particular temporal focus.

Often, there will be no further consequences to this choice. But if she goes on to say "I'll call you and we can discuss it", then with "I will have finished", she is intending to call you in the evening, because that's where she has just set the temporal focus.

If she says it after "I will finish", she is not setting the focus, and so is not specifying whether she will call in the evening or earlier. She might still mean after she has finished the work, but perhaps she means "I have plenty of time to get my work finished before this evening, so I can take a break and call you"; or even "I need to discuss it with you before I can finish it, so I'll discuss it this afternoon".

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