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"Oh dear, the lecture starts at 9 o'clock. I'm late."
"Don't worry. This lecturer's always late. He (hasn't/won't have) started yet."

Is there a possibility of using "hasn't started" to take into account that it's 9:05 now? The correct answer is "won't have started" though and I don’t understand, why.

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  • It doesn't look like a Future Perfect here. It is rather the modal verb "will" with the Perfect Infinitive, denoting strong probability (a volitional meaning of "will") at the point in time (9.00) or in the time sphere (9.00-9.05, containing herein its inclusive perfect sense) lying before that of the conversation (9.05+). Some other modals could have also been brought in (with different levels of uncertainty): "This lecturer's always late. He could/would (expressing that smth. was to be expected, assumption, not the 3rd Conditional)/may/might not have started yet".
    – Eugene
    Feb 7 at 13:38
  • It sounds like you've run into a badly created test question, in which two answers could be valid and only one is recognized. Also, if it's currently 9:05, it's surprising that the first speaker said "starts at 9" rather than "started." (It's not unreasonable; we often use present tense for abstract attributes like "the club meets in the lounge" or "the lecture happens on Wednesday." But if the test is going to be picky about tenses, it seems like an odd choice.) Feb 7 at 15:56
  • @Andy Bonner You picked up on a very significant point. The situation depicted in the test question can make sense if the interlocutor of the lagging student isn't at the educational facility herself. "Oh dear, the lecture starts at 9 o'clock (usually, as a rule). It's 9:05 already but I'm still on my way". - "Don't worry. I haven't arrived there also. But I bet that the lecturer won't have started yet because he is always late".
    – Eugene
    Feb 7 at 19:55

2 Answers 2

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The second speaker would only say He hasn't started yet if they knew that for a fact. He won't have started yet expresses a belief that the lecturer has probably not started his talk..

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In my opinion, I'd say it is possible to say, "...hasn't started yet." given that the speaker is really sure that the lecturer hasn't arrived yet, or the lecture hasn't started yet.

I'm quite confused though as to how you can say that the answer is "...won't have started..." given that you said that it's 9:05 now and the time that the lecture starts is 9:00 o'clock. I'm not quite sure whether "... won't have..." would be fit for that context. [1] We use the future-perfect tense for actions that will be done before a specified time, and if the time has already past then future-perfect won't be appropriate.

But, in some cases it would be ok. Like in the situation you've given, that statement—"... won't have..."—tells the speaker's speculations that the lecturer would be late based on the patterns of the lecturer's punctuality.

[1]TopEnglishGrammar. (2022, May 28). Future Perfect Tense: How to Form and use | Top English Grammar. Top English Grammar. https://topenglishgrammar.com/future-perfect-rules-and-examples/

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    If one of the two people speaking is late for the lecture, it’s likely that neither of them are at the lecture and know for certain that it has not started. The conversation would be written differently if the person who is late was texting someone already at the lecture, for example.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 7 at 11:59

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