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This is a question from the entrance exam of a certain university in Tokyo. You are supposed to choose the most appropriate phrase out of the four, but it confuses me.

  • Mrs. Johnson tells me that it (will take/ takes/ must take/ has taken) two more months to complete the project.

I guess the correct answer will be 1, will take. However, I don't understand why the others are incorrect. Would you please kindly tell me what is wrong with the other three?

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  • Same old same old... Garbage test, probably devised by a non-native Anglophone. Given the appropriate context, all of those "wrong" answers could be exactly what's needed. Almost certainly the contexts where will take would be the best (or only) possible choice will be more common than contexts where, say, has taken would make more sense. But it's a poor quality test - concerned with likely scenarios rather than syntactic validity, so don't waste too much time on it. Jun 18 at 15:43
  • "Two more months" is most likely to mean "another two months added to the time it has taken until now", so the future "will take" is the most likely interpretation. Jun 18 at 15:48
  • I assume 1 (will take) could be the best choice, but I don't understand why the others are marked wrong. Does "must take" sound odd here?
    – kuwabara
    Jun 18 at 15:52
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    All of them are possible, but only will take sounds natural. "Must take" just doesn't make very much sense. What would it even mean here? "It is required that the project take two more months to complete"?
    – stangdon
    Jun 18 at 16:37
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    We can say It must be finished by Christmas (the last possible date for completion), but it sounds odd to say It must take two more months (as though the work has to be planned to last exactly two months). As @stangdon says, we would express it differently: It will take at least two more months - We shall need another two months - It won't be finished for at least two months. Jun 19 at 8:35

1 Answer 1

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These "choose the tense" questions are usually rubbish. That is because "tense" is not a element of grammar that must agree internally, but an element that adds meaning.

Here the sentence says "two more months". This is to indicate that the project isn't finished yet and so the finishing is in the future. Hense "will take".

The simple present would be odd, as it means it always takes two more months. That might be possible in an ironic sort of way - "These tasks are never complete, if you ask anyone they always say "two more months". But this kind of irony is beyond such tests.

Similarly "must take" and "has taken" could be used given the right context, but would seem unlikely. There would need to be more context to justify the use of "more" (two more than what??)

So it is clear that 1. is the right answer. Not because it is the only possible answer, but because the others fit less well.

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  • I wonder why must take sounds off here. "Must" is often used when you very sure of something, isn't it? Is it strange to say "it must take two more months to complete the project" when you are very sure that it will take two more months to complete the project?
    – kuwabara
    Jun 18 at 23:55

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