2

Could someone tell me what's the difference between:

By the time we got here, the place was barricaded.

By the time we got here, the place had been barricaded.

The same question about these examples:

By the time we get there, the supermarket will be closed.

By the time we get there, the supermarket will have been closed.

For some reason, it seems a little confusing to me, as I'm not a native speaker. Thanks in advance.

1

It terms of conveying meaning there's no difference; the same picture is conveyed, a complete barricade or a closed supermarket.

In analysing how the meaning is conveyed one approach has the focus on the state of an object and one focuses on the action that changes the state.

the supermarket is closed

We look at a supermarket and see that the doors are locked and the lights are off.

the supermarket has been closed

here we focus on the activity of closing, a person has locked the door and turned out the lights.

Choosing between such options seems to me to be mostly a matter of style. In your particular example

the supermarket will have been closed

does feel a little ungainly, will be seems easier and give a greater sense of urgency.

1

It's possible they mean the same thing, but it's also possible they don't.


1. By the time we got here, the place was barricaded.

This means that when we got there, there were barricades in place.


2. By the time we got here, the place had been barricaded.

All this means is that when we got there, the place had been barricaded at some point before. It may or may not still have been barricaded when we arrived.

For instance, both of the following could be added:

2. a) By the time we got there, the place had been barricaded [three times already, but each time the obstacles had been removed. It's current state was free of barricades].

2. b) By the time we got there, the place had been barricaded [three times already, but the first two times, the obstacles had been removed. However, after the third time, they were still in place].


Without additional context or clarification, had been doesn't give a definite statement about the current situation (with respect to the time period being described).

So, the two sentence might mean the same thing—or they might not.

The same analysis applies to the second set of sentences. Will have been closed doesn't necessarily mean that it will still be closed when we get there. Only that it will have been closed at least once at some point.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.