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Example 1

I will tell him what my schedule will be like.

Example 2

I will tell him what my schedule is like.

My analysis:

I will tell him (future time 1) what my schedule will be (future time 2) like.

I will tell him (future time 1) what my schedule is (future time 1) like.

I think if "will" appears in the subordinate clause, it means a future time further than future time 1.

3 Answers 3

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Your assessment is absolutely correct here, for the example sentences.

However, you have also added a generalised assumption at the end that it will be true for all cases where 'will' is used in the subordinate clause, by adding 'means a future time further than future time'. So, while here we are talking about 'schedule' which by default is a rolling window and hence holds true in your assessment and also fits into the generalisation you have done at the end, there could be cases when both these sentences - with or without 'will' in subordinate clause - can mean exactly the same thing without adding additional time reference than what is already part of the first half e.g. 'I will tell him what my fist will be like!' or 'I will tell him what my fist is like!' so, here 'will be' is equal to 'is' and the only time gap is you 'telling him', so to speak.

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In example 1 the schedule has not yet been established. In example 2 it’s already (at the moment that the sentence itself is uttered) set, and the only thing that hasn’t happened yet is the describing of it to “him.”

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    Can Example 2 be interpreted as "the schedule will be set in a future time close to the timing of telling" rather than "it has been set"?
    – vincentlin
    Commented Jan 23 at 2:50
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    Yes @vincentlin, that could be the case. The sentence on its own seems to imply the schedule has already been set, but with proper context that could change. For example, "My friend, John, asked when I would be free next week, but I didn't know yet. This weekend, after my boss posts next week's schedule, I will tell John what my schedule is like." Commented Jan 30 at 16:45
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Example 1: I will tell (FT-1) him what my schedule will be (FT-A) like (when I see him).

Event 1: I will tell him…
Event A: (implied) expected change in what schedule will be

Two FT events described in Example 1 are not logically sequential, except that the implied change in schedule (Event A) must happen first so that the information told (Event 1) is accurate. There is nothing inherent in the sentence that guarantees that the status of the schedule is accurate at the time when it is told. Whatever status it is when Event 1 occurs is what will be reported. More information will help to provide clarity.

Without appropriate context, it is difficult to avoid awkward ambiguity. This can be fixed by defining a timeline that links the two even events:

  • After I find out when I’m traveling, I will tell him what my schedule will be like so we can set up a meeting.
  • I’m expecting a change of schedule. I will tell him what my schedule will be like when I know more.

Example 2: I will tell (FT) him what my schedule is (PT) like (when we meet).

This example is much more straight-forward single event, and probably the one that has the most natural applicability, because the PT does not create awkward ambiguity. The PT is like can only describe the current status of my schedule when the FT event occurs. In essence, the speaker describes a present tense as it exists in the future when the act of telling occurs. Any possible change in my schedule between now and the present tense of next week when my schedule is told to him is included in the status being reported.

  • I will tell him what my schedule is like when we meet next week.

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