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Example 1

Tomorrow at 10 o'clock, there will be something that comes up.

Example 2

Tomorrow at 10 o'clock, there will be something that will come up.

What are the differences in meaning?

I think Example 2 means something will happen later than tomorrow at 10 o'clock while Example 1 means something will happen tomorrow at 10 o'clock.

Example 3

Tomorrow I will fix the errors that the computer shows.

Example 4

Tomorrow I will fix the errors that the computer will show.

I think Examples 3 and 4 are also the same logic. But here Example 4 does not sound so right because the errors will show later than tomorrow according to the structure which means that I won't be able to fix errors that have not happened.

Example 5

I will eat food that they provide.

Example 6

I will eat food that they will provide.

What are the differences in meaning?

I think Example 5 means food will be provided almost the same time I eat while Example 6 means food will be provided later than the time I eat.

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  • 1
    3 "Tomorrow I will fix the errors that the computer shows" could have the same meaning as 4, but it (3) could also mean that tomorrow, you will fix the errors the computer is currently showing today. 4 unambiguously means that tomorrow you will fix errors that specifically occur tomorrow. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 1:08
  • I agree with Quack E, I think you have it backward. Example 1 and 2 mean the same thing, But example 3 is ambiguous. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 7:41
  • 4
    1 & 2 are non-idiomatic. Should be Tomorrow at 10 o'clock, something will come up. 3 can be disambiguated by appending either now or then to clarify which errors we're talking about. 4 is "valid, but awkward", so it's generally better to use something like my suggested fix to 3 to avoid it. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 14:41

1 Answer 1

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+50

Let's take these one at a time, but first, a little review of future tense in English.

Unlike past tense, and present tense, which have four forms each in English, as follows:

  • past/present simple; e.g. "ate/eat"
  • past/present perfect; e.g. "had/has eaten"
  • past/present continuous; e.g. "was/is eating"
  • past/present perfect continuous; e.g. "had/has been eating"

...future tense has at least seven forms, including all four of these (present tense plural forms) with the addition of "will," e.g. "will have been eating," and these additional forms:

  • simple present tense; e.g. "He works tomorrow."
  • present continuous tense; e.g. "He is working tomorrow."
  • "going to"; e.g. "He is going to work tomorrow."

Notice that every one of these three additional forms uses a present tense verb without "will." Whenever one of these three forms is used, context determines that it is future tense: in the example sentences here, the word "tomorrow" clearly indicates a future time.

Typically English speakers avoid the repetition of "will" in a future context, and use present tense verbs in its place for additional verbs in the sentence.

For example: "I will have traveled for four hours by the time I arrive at the airport tomorrow."

In this example, saying "will arrive" is actually incorrect, grammatically or idiomatically. This is often the case with future verbs indicating a sequence of future events: "will have traveled" being the future perfect, and "arrive" being future simple--represented in present simple form.

Now, let's consider your examples.

Example 1

Tomorrow at 10 o'clock, there will be something that comes up.

Example 2

Tomorrow at 10 o'clock, there will be something that will come up.

Notice that neither of these sentences provides a sequence. The expression allows for each verb to be acting independently of the other, via a separate, dependent, clause. This means that a repetition of "will" is possible. However, as a repetition of "will" is typically avoided by English speakers, Example 1 is more idiomatic (natural). The use of "will" for the second verb, i.e. "will come up," is considered redundant and unnecessary, and, in this case, makes no difference to the meaning of the sentence. The second inclusion of "will" does not change the time to which its verb is applied.

Now, to your second example.

Example 3

Tomorrow I will fix the errors that the computer shows.

Example 4

Tomorrow I will fix the errors that the computer will show.

This example differs in that the context of the second verb is ambiguous. It could be understood, in Example 3, as applying either to the present time, or to the future--because a present simple tense form of the verb can represent either present or future. If the computer is showing those errors right now, and you intend to fix them tomorrow, or if the computer will show the errors tomorrow, and is not showing them yet, is unclear. Example 4 removes this ambiguity, and plainly indicates that the errors are expected tomorrow; therefore, in this case the repetition of "will" is acceptable.

Example 5

I will eat food that they provide.

Example 6

I will eat food that they will provide.

These two sentences are very nearly identical, but not exactly. The use of present simple form for "provide" in the first sentence gives it a factual tone, as if it is certain. While "will provide" in the second example can also be factual, the addition of "will" implies that the food has not yet been given, as this is still clearly future, and therefore a greater measure of faith that it will be given is implied. Example 5 assumes that the food is being supplied as a matter of course, and will be supplied without question; whereas Example 6 indicates that the food has not yet been provided, but is merely expected or planned. Again, due to the potential difference in nuance of meaning here, the additional "will" is grammatically permissible.

Summary

Wherever it would make no change to the meaning, additional instances of "will" beyond the first one are considered redundant, and are usually omitted. In a verb sequence, where two or more future times are indicated (e.g. future perfect + future simple), only one "will" is grammatically permissible. However, when the addition of "will" clarifies an ambiguity with respect to present tense usage versus future tense usage, it is permissible to include it, and it does, in such a case, affect the meaning of the sentence.

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  • I thought sometimes English speakers use simple present tense because of the principle of tense simplification in subordinate clauses.
    – VinceL
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 20:46
  • How about the time differences of the events? I feel like the "will" in the relative clause makes the event sound like it happens later the first event. For example, the food being provided happens later "i eat" in Example 6.
    – VinceL
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 21:25
  • 1
    If "they provide" of Example 5 is understood to be present tense, then, yes, "will provide" in Example 6 indicates a later time. However, if "they provide" of Example 5 is understood to be future tense, then, no, the time is not later--it would be the same time for both. The question is how does one interpret the ambiguous verb of Example 5.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 21:30
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    @vincentlin Suppose, for example, that you are staying at a boarding school which serves students three meals a day in the cafeteria. You could easily say "I will eat the food that they provide" because they're already providing food, and will continue to do so--whether or not you've eaten any of it yet. On the other hand, in a different context, suppose you've been in a Nazi concentration camp and deprived of food, but word has trickled in that the American liberation forces have already taken Paris and are coming your way. You expect they'll provide food when they arrive, which you'll eat.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 3:18
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    Using "that they will provide" implies you have faith that this food is on its way, even if you haven't seen it yet. It is future tense to indicate that it is an as-yet-future provision.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 3:20

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