This sentence tells nothing about the future. "Will" here is used to describe what happened in the past / present.

No chance of finding him sober now; he will have been drinking all day.

Can you explain me this kind of usage of will?

  • 3
    See What's will? on Language Log. Allow me to quote a particular section: "In each pair the time is the same, but the version with will is epistemically weaker [i.e. less certain] than the simple present." – snailplane Jun 22 '13 at 8:36
  • Your quote only refers to the present tense version. For example: "The phone is ringing. That will be Bill." as opposed to "That's Bill." The article makes no such claims about the tense quoted here. – BobRodes Jun 25 '13 at 6:38

"Will" has several functions. One of them is to express likelihood. As the Cobuild English Grammar states:

You use 'will' when you are assuming that something is the case and you do not think there is any reason to doubt it.

You can use will + continuous in this way to express your assumption about the future, present and past.

No doubt he'll be drinking when we arrive.

Knowing him he will be drinking already.

Small wonder he had a hangover. He will have been drinking all day the day before.


The grammatical tense is one thing, the time it refers to is another thing. Not always tense and time correspond. Present tense can be used for future, and assumptions about the past can be expressed in future perfect:

  • Where will he have been?

It actually does say something about the future.

The sentence means that when (in the future) you find him, you will see that he has been drinking all day.

The reference time for the clause is the time at which you find him, i.e., sometime in the future, and the speaker's prediction for that time, is that you will observe that he has been drinking all day.

  • I think that's a possible interpretation, but not a very likely one. – snailplane Jun 22 '13 at 9:25
  • @snailboat- what other possible interpretation can there be? – Jim Jun 22 '13 at 15:26
  • Would someone please explain to me what they consider incorrect about this answer? There have been 3 downvotes so far and I am at a loss as to understand what the objections are. This is the way I have interpreted this construction for my entire life and it has served me in good stead. – Jim Jun 22 '13 at 18:39
  • @Jim look at snailboat's link: What's will? It's actually been an eye opener for me as well. – Mari-Lou A Jun 24 '13 at 18:15
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    I looked at his link, and still don't see why someone downvoted Jim's answer. It appears that the discussion in that link doesn't contradict what Jim has said. I recall an old Latin teacher giving an example of the Future Perfect tense, by saying (in 1971) "by the year 2000 I shall have died." That quite specifically means that at that future point of time an event currently in the future would be a past event. I see nothing in the article that contradicts that interpretation, and don't find that the article offers an alternative interpretation to it. – BobRodes Jun 25 '13 at 6:38

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