Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

"A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid."

I understand the context but I don't quite understand the grammar rule here. These examples are not clauses (like If you call, I will come), but the author used present simple in both cases after future tense. Can anyone post some previous threads or links to grammar sites so I can learn more about it?

Thanks in advance

  • What do you mean when you say that these are not clauses? Each marked phrase has tense, and each finite verb is paired with a subject: [ day / will come ], [ you / think ], [ you / 'll know ] and [ debt / is paid ]. Jul 16, 2020 at 23:01
  • I wanted to say "not conditionals". My bad
    – artek
    Jul 17, 2020 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


In the sentence you quote from George Martin, the verbs are stative verbs rather than action or dynamic verbs.

Stative verbs use simple present forms where dynamic or action verbs would use future continuous forms.

The verb 'think' can be either a stative verb, expressing a state of mind like an opinion, or an dynamic verb, describing a cognitive process. Martin uses the stative form.

In the second clause, the relevant verb is 'be', used as a linking verb which makes it stative.

('Paid' is an adjective. If 'paid' were being used as a verb form, as a past participle, the clause would be "you'll know the debt has been paid," in future continuous perfect tense.)

References: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/future-continuous-tense/ https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/stative-verbs.html

This one says that there actually are no future tenses in English, so that the question is really whether we use present simple or present progressive (=continuous) forms to express the future. The relevant section is "The Present Progressive Tense for Future Events" and the subsection on "Verbs Not Used in the Progressive." https://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/410-expressing-the-future.htm

  • Thanks for your response. As for "you'll know the debt has been paid", why did you use Present Perfect when talking about future ("you'll know")?
    – artek
    Jul 14, 2020 at 5:48
  • I tried to look up the usage of stative verbs in Present Simple when expressing future but couldn't find any. What I mean is using Present simple after Future Simple (as in "will come when you think")
    – artek
    Jul 14, 2020 at 6:10

A day will come.  Today, that day lies in the future.  On that day, that day will be your present.  When that day is the present, then you think yourself safe and happy, in the present tense.

A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy.

Your comment suggests that this isn't a conditional relationship.  However, it is.  We typically mark conditions with the words "if" and "unless", but "when" also has the same function.

I will come if you call
A day will come when you think those things

In the context of the original, thinking that way doesn't seem to be a sufficient cause, but it does work as a necessary condition.  Unless you think that way, such a day will never come.

From the perspective of that day, thinking that way is a present-tense state.


you'll know [that] the debt is paid

We're not talking about some time in the future when you will know that the payment of the debt still lies even further in the future.  By the time you reach the future of "you'll know", by the time that knowing is a present-tense state, then the payment of the debt is a present-tense fact.  It is, in fact, that fact which is known.

From the perspective of that knowledge, the payment has been made.

  • Thanks for your great response. In the first sentence, I thought about conditional, but when I changed parts, it sounded awkward. "When you think, the day will come". It's like the day will come ONLY when you think of it. And when you don't? Won't the day come too? As for the second sentence I thought it to be "You will know that the debt would have been paid". I think that it's more grammatically correct but it sounds awful to my ears. What do you think? And thanks for your help
    – artek
    Jul 19, 2020 at 7:11
  • It's not at all awkward on my side of the screen (if you move enough of it), and that is the implication: "I will hurt you. When you think yourself safe and happy, a day will come and suddenly your joy will turn to grief, and you'll know that I am avenged". You can't suffer that loss until you have something to lose. You can't stop thinking that you're safe and happy before you do think that way. It all boils down to "I want vengeance, and this is how I will get it." Jul 19, 2020 at 15:36
  • Thanks a lot. Can I ask you a couple more questions please? When you say "You can't stop thinking that you're safe and happy before you do think that way" you mean that you think yourself safe and happy till you realize that you have something to lose? And one more: you say that we can you Present Passive from the perspective of future (you will know the debt is paid). Can you please tell me what a rule this is? I tried to search for it but I couldn't find anything similar
    – artek
    Jul 21, 2020 at 5:41

In English, Present Simple is used inside of a future time clause.


Correct: "When you receive the email, let me know."
Wrong: "When you will receive the email, let me know."

Correct: "As soon as you get home, do the dishes."
Wrong: "As soon as you will get home, do the dishes."

Correct: After it stops raining, I will go.
Incorrect: After it will stop raining, I will go.


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