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I received this email from Microsoft and really don't understand it.

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you received this email

I don't understand the logic behind employing past simple here. Shouldn't it be

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you receive this email

or

We hope that everything will be working as expected by the time you receive this email

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    Or "by the time you have received this email". Better yet, "We hope that everything is now working as expected". Your two rewrites are grammatically correct but still verbose. – user264 May 26 '13 at 5:28
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There is a dissonance in the original sentence, even though we understand what the writer meant.

These three parts a fine by themselves, but they don't work very well together.

"is working as expected"

"by the time"

"you received this email"

We can fix this in multiple ways, such as both of your suggestions, and Bill Franke's.

Here are a few fixes with a commentary on each:

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you receive this email.

When does the reader actually receive the email?

  • When it is first read by the user?
  • When it is time-stamped by the e-mail account?

'Receive' could be either one, but 'received' seems to imply the second.

So, can we keep "received" in our sentence?

We hope that everything has been working as expected by the time you received this email.

Unfortunately, the prepositional phrase "by the time" doesn't really fit very well with "has been working". So, let's try to change the preposition.

We hope that everything has been working as expected since the time you received this email.

This sounds great, but doesn't mean exactly the same thing as the original. "Since the time" implies that it started working at the time of receiving the email, but "by the time" means that it started working before the time of receiving the email.

So, we fixed the grammar, but lost some of the original meaning.

I'm not sure if we can resurrect that lost meaning without making the sentence less understandable, but here are a couple of ideas.

Beginning at a time before you received this email, we hope that everything has been working as expected.

By the time you received this email, it is to be hoped that everything has been working as expected.

In conclusion, the original sentence was easy to understand, and had a reasonably clear meaning, although it had some conflicting grammar. On the other hand, these alternatives, while they have correct grammar either change the meaning of the sentence or increase the complexity of the sentence.

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I would prefer:

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you receive this email.

This expresses two occurrences (when everything is working, and when you receive this mail) in the future.

Let's briefly consider each.

The 'everything working' bit can be expressed using present tense language for 2 reasons:

  1. It's an expressed desire for the future, which takes the subjunctive mood, and we normally use present tense conjugation as in "I hope you win the race." rather than "I hope that you will win the race.".

  2. The may imagine the recipient reading their message at the time of having received the email, sort of like if I send you a message from Jupiter and it takes a while to reach you. "By the time you're reading this, I'm already landing on Io.", and yet I would land after sending the message.

So, either of those may be the case. In today's world, the writer was probably thinking along the lines of the latter.

Regarding "...by the time you received this email.", technically it's a time clause. Time clauses are commonly preceded by when, after, before, while, as soon as, etc., and by the time as well. For that reason, a present tense is probably the most natural, since time clauses often express the future as though it were present (there are exceptions), as "...by the time you receive this email.".

However, if the writer is thinking of a future when you've received the email he/she's writing, it would be more correct to say "...by the time you've received this email.", which employs the Present Perfect (I have eaten, she has watched me eat). This is because:

  1. We're describing a time after receipt where we're really describing the result of that change in situation ("I can read the email because I've received it." and not "I received it ten minutes ago.", which doesn't focus on its present relevance).

  2. We're actually casting the Future Perfect into a time clause. To clarify: I can say "Soon you will have received this email. You will be happy when you've received this email." Notice the emphasis, pointing out how the word 'will' disappears due to now being within a time clause. Similarly, we can do:

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you've received this email.

But (and I'm almost done) in common parlance, at least where I reside in the Central US, people don't seem to care as much about using prefect tenses for a 'change in situation' or 'result' meaning. (We do use it for past experience "I've been to Spain before." and something lasting up until now "I've been in Spain for the past five years.") So, I think that it's more common to hear/read:

We hope that everything is working as expected by the time you receive this email.

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