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I don't understand what does action period denote by future-in-the-past?

It denotes the action which referenced to the future, relative to current time moment, from the past, relative to the current time moment or It denotes the action which is future to a some past, relative to the current time moment and may be past relative to the current time moment?

For example, Future-in-the-past simple:

He said he would go to the dentist.

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  • You need to give some specific examples of what you're asking about. Native speakers don't automatically know exactly what you mean when you talk about things like "action period" and "future-in-the-past". Jun 24, 2014 at 4:31
  • @FumbleFingers I've added an example. Jun 24, 2014 at 4:34

1 Answer 1

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It is future, relative to the past.

In the example you added, we only know that he is planning to go to the dentist at some point after he speaks. The dentist appointment could occur at any time after he spoke. As you are relating what he said, the appointment could have already occurred, or it could still be in the future.

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  • Thanks for your answer. But I have one more doubt. Does native speakers call that time-construction exactly future, relative to the past instead of future-in-the-past? I want to clarify that because in any sources which I used this time-construction names future-in-the-past Jun 24, 2014 at 6:09
  • @michelle, that’s intriguing for me! This source: englishpage.com/verbpage/futureinpast.html puzzles me too (on time diagram the action is finished before present) but on the other hand I can understand your: “the appointment could have already occurred, or it could still be in the future”. I wonder if the source could be wrong? Jun 24, 2014 at 7:15
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    @LucianSava: the source seems to be wrong. You can definitely say something like "He said he would go to the dentist, but I don't know if he went yet."
    – Max
    Jun 24, 2014 at 9:55
  • @Max, thank you, I thought so but I wasn’t hundred percent sure. Jun 24, 2014 at 10:12
  • @Dmitry, Future-in-the-past is the only way I've seen it referred to, but honestly, most native speakers would not know a name for it.
    – michelle
    Jun 24, 2014 at 13:12

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