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I can differentiate which would be used in sentences, but I can't quite pinpoint the difference between these. So I went online and tried a quiz from the British Council and I can't quite figure out why

"I promised my teacher, I would have finished the homework by Monday."

Can't be:

"I promised my teacher, I will have finished the homework by Monday."

It would be a great help if anyone could help me define the lines between will, would have, and would (in a general sense, like tense-wise), and also why will have is wrong in that context.

  • the phrases strike my American ears as wrong. Should they be: "I would have the homework finished by Monday" and "I will have the homework finished by Monday"? – Ron Jensen Jul 9 at 3:06
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It's because of the sequence of tenses:

I promise... I will have finished...

I promised... I would have finished...

Still, in a real conversation people normally use the infinitive after "promise":

I promised my teacher to finish the homework by Monday.

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"Will" states that you're %100 sure about something in future tense.

"Would" means the you may or may not, but you're not sure about future. It conveys "tendency" or "willingness".

When you use "will" or "would" in the structure of "Will/Would + have + past participle" , you're expressing that an activity will be completed before another time or event in the future.

in the sentence "I promised my teacher, I would have finished the homework by Monday." you're saying that you'll try and you'll do your best. but in "I promised my teacher, I will have finished the homework by Monday." using "will" is not grammatically wrong actually but you don't use usually use it.

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The sentence:

I promised my teacher, I would have finished the homework by Monday.

is correct because you are talking about the past. Thus promised is past tense and so you need to use the past tense of will (i.e. would), and then here you are also using the past perfect of finish (have finished).

It would also be correct to say:

I promised my teacher, [that] I would finish the homework by Monday.

because the tenses for promise and will are consistent (promised and would), but finish can be used in its present form. The difference between the two formulations is only slight and most native speakers (IMO) would not make a distinction.

The biggest difference is perhaps that would have finished can imply that it was not finished whereas would finish can be ambiguous.

When using will you are talking about the future.

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