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1.Frank will return the book if he has finished reading it.

2.The project will not start until all the preparations have been made.

These sentences are from a workbook. I'm wondering if the perfect in the subordinate clauses are optional, ie. if we can say the following sentences instead:

1a.Frank will return the book if he finishes reading it.

2a.The project will not start until all the preparations are made.

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2

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If he finishes implies that the speaker thinks Frank may not manage to finish the book. (1) assumes that he will, but that he may not have done so yet.

(2) is better than (2a) because it makes it clearer that the preparations have to be complete for the project to start.

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The two options are not always interchangeable.

Take your "Frank" example. Version (1) states:

Frank will return the book if he has finished reading it.

This phrasing suggests that the speaker doesn't know, at the present moment, whether Frank has finished the book or not, but is stating with some certainty that Frank will return the book if he already has finished it. Your other version (1a) is:

Frank will return the book if he finishes reading it.

This version, unlike version 1, suggests that the speaker knows that Frank has not yet finished reading the book, and that a future event - that Frank will return the book - will occur if Frank finishes reading it.

(The example strikes me as somewhat artificial, because it suggests that, if Frank doesn't finish the book, he won't return it. A normal English sentence would be: "Frank will return the book once/after he finishes reading it." But, who knows, maybe Frank is in the habit of keeping other people's books indefinitely.)

(2) and (2a), though, mean the same thing. Here, we have "until" rather than "if." There is really no difference between "until X happens" or "until X has happened." In the United States, the present tense is probably slightly more idiomatic, but both are fine. The perfect is probably more common in the UK than it is in the US.

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