Kelly: Ms. Kline, how do you think the attempt on Detective Alex Murphy's life will affect tomorrow's vote for the Dreyfus Act?

Kline: At this time, Omnicorp's sole concern is the full recovery of Detective Murphy.

Pat Novak: How many times does Detective Murphy have to give his life for his country?

Pat Novak: I sincerely hope the Senate makes the right vote tomorrow so that Alex Murphy's sacrifices will not have been in vain.

-- Robocop 2014

I was wondering why will not have been is best used here. Why not will not be or have not been? Is will here auxiliary or epistemic?

Is it the same usage as in:

I will have completely finished by next June. (usage of simple future perfect, auxiliary)


It’s no use phoning - he’ll have left by now. (used to express certainty about the past, epistemic)

or a variation of either of them?

I would think it's associated with both usage here - Murphy's sacrifices refer to the past while being in vain or not refer to the future.

  • 1
    Note that will not have been... indicates that those sacrifices have already taken place. Will not be... would be used in a situation where those sacrifices have not yet occurred, but he does plan on making them. (And no, that's not an answer. I'm not 100% sure of how to explain the why behind this, and I refuse to write an answer I can't explain.) May 13, 2014 at 17:16
  • 1
    I read that line as Alex Murphy made his sacrifices already (hinted by "recovery", "how many times", and "have been"), and the decision the Senate will make tomorrow will definitely result in one of the possibilities: that the sacrifice "will have been" or "will not have been" in vain. May 13, 2014 at 18:15
  • It is the very why that I'd like to understand :-) @JonathanGarber
    – Kinzle B
    Jun 14, 2014 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


I think will not have been is the best choice.

have been is appropriate because the "sacrifices" were over a period of time in the past (implied since its plural).
And will is appropriate because a specific decision is expected, that will result in either will or will not (make the right vote tomorrow).

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