1. I will do the work by 5 o’clock.

It means that we will be able to say "I'm doing the work." at some moment before 5 o'clock inclusive. That is we don't mean the work will already be done/finished by that time.

2. I will have done the work by 5 o’clock.

It means that we will be able to say "I have done the work." at some moment before 5 o'clock inclusive. That is we mean the work will already be done/finished by that time.

Thus I look at 1. and 2. as at the absolutely different sentences. But as far as I'm concerned, for the native speakers they are identical and both mean the work will already be done/finished by 5 o'clock. Hence my considerations are wrong.

So, could you explain to me please why my logic is not correct?


  • You may also wish to consider this phrasing: I will have the work done by 5 o'clock. – Max Jul 11 '19 at 0:24

To "do the work" means to complete the work.


4 d. to perform or complete a job or a piece of work
He’s just doing a few jobs around the house.
Have you done your math assignment yet?
He did his Ph.D. at Harvard.

Macmillan Dictionary

If I say, "I will do my homework before dinner," I do not mean I will begin working on my homework before dinner, I mean I will start and finish my homework before dinner.

In other words, we do mean that the work will already be finished by that time.

The two example sentences mean almost the same thing. The promised outcome is the same - the work will be finished. The first emphasizes the doing of the work. The second emphasizes the (completed) state of the work.

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  • With present time as in “He’s just doing a few jobs around the house.”, “do” doesn’t mean “complete”, i.e. it shows us that the jobs are in progress and there isn’t any mention that these jobs come to the end. But with future time “do” begins to mean the end of some process. Is it the right conclusion I made from your post? Thanks! – Loviii Jul 10 '19 at 21:36
  • @Loviii, your understanding is probably correct. The general rule with present progressive verbs ("ing") is that they are in process. "I'm completing the work" means I am in the process of making it complete. So "doing jobs around the house" should mean in the process of completing the housework. However, there's less of an implication with doing that the work will be done when you stop doing it. Do is overstuffed with meaning, so its usage is more complicated. But generally, "will do it" means will complete it and "doing it" means in the process of completing it. – Juhasz Jul 10 '19 at 22:07
  • Do we imply, using present tense with "do" as for example in “He’s just doing a few jobs around the house.”, that he will soon cease performing these jobs? Thanks! – Loviii Jul 10 '19 at 22:27
  • @Lovii, yes, sort of. It depends on what you mean by "soon." "Doing it" does seem to imply that the end is in sight. For instance, this would be an unusual use: "I heard you were building a new house." "Yes I'm doing it now." Building a house is too big of a project to "be doing." On the other hand, this is fairly natural, "I heard you were going to install the wiring in the new house." "Yes, I'm doing it now." It might take all day to "do it," but if that qualifies as "soon," then yes, that's what it implies. – Juhasz Jul 10 '19 at 22:55
  • And if we have the next example: Bob’s brother is going to Bob’s house in the morning but he doesn’t know that Bob has decided to do the wiring today and already begun to do it. Near the house the brother sees Bob’s wife. He asks: “Where is Bob?”. The wife answers: “He’s doing the wiring inside the house.” Could the wife say so if she knew that Bob will be busy all day, doing the wiring? Thanks! – Loviii Jul 11 '19 at 0:41

This will not always be the case but I tend to see the first sentence as a response for when someone is waiting specifically for the result of the work; and the second sentence when someone is waiting for my availability (e.g. to do more work).

Consider the following conversations:

Alice: Have you finished the TPS reports? Management need to look at them tomorrow morning.

Bob: I'll do them [the TPS reports] by 5 o'clock.


Alice: I need you to start working on the TPS reports. When will you be finished with the aggregations?

Bob: I'll have them [the aggregations] done by 5 o'clock.

That said, both of your sentences can reasonably be used to satisfy the first conversation.

The implicit guarantee, in either case, is that the work will be finished by 5 o'clock. You would nearly always advise the person you were speaking to as to when they should expect that their progress can continue.

If you wanted to express you would still be working on something at 5 o'clock (i.e. it will not be finished), you could use alternatives, such as:

  1. (if the deadline cannot be met)
    • I won't have the work done by 5 o'clock
    • It won't be done by 5 o'clock
  2. (if you haven't started yet)
    • I hadn't planned on starting this until 5 o'clock (i.e. by your choice)
    • I can't start this until 5 o'clock (i.e. because something else prevents it)
  3. (if your work conflicts with another activity)
    • I'll still be doing the work at 5 o'clock
    • I'll still be working on this at 5 o'clock (i.e. so I can't do something else)
    • I'll still be at work at 5 o'clock (i.e. so you cannot meet someone elsewhere)
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