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It is clear that ever greater volumes of information are going to be stored digitally and there is a danger that when formats change, data will be lost.

According to a rule of time expressions, we can use only present tenses with time expressions such as when, before, after, etc. to talk about the future. Can't I use "have changed" instead of "change" here in this case?

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    You'd strictly have to change 'will be lost' to 'will have been lost' then. Keep it simple; it works fine as it is. The present-simple-for-the-future is very common in English. Try putting 'inevitably' before 'change' and see if it sounds better to your ear. Feb 21, 2021 at 15:09
  • No, it would be wrong.
    – tchrist
    Feb 21, 2021 at 16:03
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    It's just expressing a general truth, which we use the present tense for. Like when I am hungry, I eat.
    – stangdon
    Feb 21, 2021 at 16:35
  • Does this answer your question? Tense after when Feb 21, 2021 at 16:54

2 Answers 2

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The clause "when formats change" is an adverbial clause and thus requires the present simple tense.

Another, more famous, example is

When I get older losing my hair many years from now, will you still be sending me a Valentine.

The verb get is part of the adverbial time clause and is in the present simple.

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An extended version of this sentence might be:

It is clear that (in the future) ever greater volumes of information are going to be stored digitally (as opposed to how it is stored, presently, or how it used to be stored in the past) and there is a danger that when formats have (been), or will be changed (by anyone using this storage in the future), data will be lost. Thus:

It is clear that, in the future, ever greater volumes of information will be stored digitally and there is a danger that where formats have been changed, data will be lost

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