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Sometimes it's necessary to use a specific aspect of tenses (simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous), but when we ask people to do something should (can) we use the same aspects in order to convey the desired meaning?

I'll do it tomorrow.
I'll be doing it at 3 pm tomorrow.
I'll have done it by 5 pm tomorrow.
I'll have been doing it for three hours by 3 pm tomorrow.

(infinitive)

I want you to do it tomorrow.
I want you to be doing it at 3 pm tomorrow. (or I want you to do it at 3 pm tomorrow)
I want you to have done it by 5 pm tomorrow. (or I want you to do it by 5 pm tomorrow)
I want you to have been doing it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow. (or I want you to do it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow)

(subjunctive)

I suggest that he do it tomorrow.
I suggest that he be doing it at 3 pm tomorrow. (or I suggest that he do it at 3 pm tomorrow)
I suggest that he have done it by 5 pm tomorrow. (or I suggest that he do it by 5 pm tomorrow)
I suggest that he have been doing it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow. (or I suggest that he do it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow)

(Imperative)

Do it tomorrow!
Be doing it at 3 pm tomorrow! (or Do it at 3 pm tomorrow!)
Have done it by 5 pm tomorrow! (or Do it by 5 pm tomorrow!)
Have been doing it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow! (or Do it for at least three hours by 3 pm tomorrow!)

Example: This is very important to me. Please, when I call you at 3 pm tomorrow, be reading my letters so that she can see you in the middle of the process of reading my letter at the exact same time I call you.

Example: I promised him that you would have been doing it at least three hours by 5 pm tomorrow. So, please, have been doing it for at least three hours by 5 pm tomorrow.

For those who may consider closing the question because of many sentences: Actually, there's only one question, those are just example sentences.

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    You are asking about several different topics: different moods, different tenses, different aspects, different categories of verbs (modal, copular, etc.), and different verb forms (infinitive, participle, etc.). I think that this question would be more manageable if it were more focused. (Also, it would be helpful to indicate what you've already found on this site.) Feb 18, 2022 at 20:41
  • @MarcInManhattan As I've already said there's actually only one question. Feb 19, 2022 at 7:00
  • @IlyaTretyakov It is admittedly a little difficult to find the actual question beneath the copious amounts of examples. Would it be possible for you to rephrase your question once more? Feb 19, 2022 at 11:57
  • I understand, but your question involves lots of issues. Feb 19, 2022 at 22:16

1 Answer 1

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All of your examples seem correct. But some sound odd or verbose, for example:

I promised him that you would have been doing it at least three hours by 5 pm tomorrow. So, please, have been doing it for at least three hours by 5 pm tomorrow.

I cannot think of a situation that you would use this, but if there are some, I think it should be worded differently. Maybe like:

I told him you would be 3 hours into your homework by 5pm, so please start at 2pm. 

Even here I do not know why you would speak in terms of "5pm" instead of "2pm.":

Please start your homework by 2pm because I told him you would. 

It is also uncommon to say:

I'll have done it by

And the alike. Instead it is common to say:

I will have it done by

Example:

I want you to have your homework done by 6pm

But as to the question of using the same "aspects" for all of the examples sets, yes, it translates over.

One last example how this is commonly said. Instead of:

I want you to be doing it at 2pm.

Most people will add the word "exact" like so:

I want you to be doing it at exactly 2pm.

The reason this is common is because asking for an event to be happening at a specific time is odd. specifying a start time or end time makes sense but specifying a time that an event must start before AND end after is quite odd. That is the aim of "I want you to be doing it at 2pm." So if there is, by chance, a reason to use this, people will say "exactly" in order to be more clear (plus it sounds better).

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  • Thank you very much! To be honest, I don't think that specifying a time is old. English has different aspects of tenses. In Russian we don't change tenses according to (at / by / for 3 hours, etc.), we only show whether the object is complete or not, and our system makes much more sense to me. But since English uses different tenses according to specific time markers (at / by / already / for / since, etc.) there must be a way to say the same with imperative, to ask people to do something in accordance with the specific time markers. Feb 19, 2022 at 7:05
  • “I’ll have it done by” and “I will have it done by” are exactly equivalent though?? One simply uses the contraction, and the other doesn’t. Feb 19, 2022 at 11:58
  • @IlyaTretyakov It might be helpful to think of it this way: English uses different tenses according to specific time markers like “at” and “by” because tenses indicate timeframe. As the word suggests, this means that both the “frame” or time the action applies to AND the point of view from which you see it are important. We specify time with all those tenses and markers so there’s no confusion as to what our point of reference is. This doesn’t make as much sense in imperative, because you’re automatically referring to the future as your base reference. Feb 19, 2022 at 12:02
  • @IlyaTretyakov In this context, it also doesn’t roll off the tongue; why say “I want to have been doing this for 3 hours by 3 pm” when you could just say “I want you to start this at 12 pm”? The former would only make sense if there’s something about the “3 hours” that you really want to emphasize, e.g. you practice piano for 3 hours every day, so you want to emphasize that by 3 pm, you’ll have finished practicing for the day. Feb 19, 2022 at 12:07
  • @AnnabethYeung yes I didn't mean to write the two lines differently in that respect. my point was "I'll have done it by" is less common that "I'll have it done by". And I for sure agree with your other two comments.
    – Eli Harold
    Feb 20, 2022 at 13:02

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