Please look at the following sentences

  1. We'll be home by midnight.

  2. We'll have been home by midnight.

If we use 'be home' in the sense of being present at home and according to the definition of 'by' which is either 'before' or 'at', then is it not possible that we may not be home at midnight but an hour before midnight, if we used by in the sense of before?

Also, I find the meaning of the sentence change with static verbs when we use simple future and future perfect. Does the meaning of the sentence change when we use a stative verb in simple future and future perfect? Just like the midnight example above unlike with dynamic verb?

Editing in response to Alan sir's advice

In 'By the time I reached, he had arrived'. Does this mean he was there when I reached or it doesn't specify that and probably he may have left moments before my reaching home? It is only the context that may tell us what was true at the moment of my reaching there. He could have left also, but, 'by the time' does not say that. Am I right?

Like, for example

In 'By the time we met him not only had he become sick from flu, but also he had recovered from it, so he was healthy'.

Is the above sentence correct and logical? Can we use 'by the time' in the above manner?

I mean does 'By the time X, Y, Z' does this construction have a relevance at the time of X? Does it always mean at the time of 'X', Y and Z are still true?

Like, for example

'By the time I went home, he had left for school, but had also arrived moments earlier than I reached'.


1 Answer 1


First, by means you'll be home by midnight at the latest, so yes, it could mean you'll actually be home at 11pm or actually any time up to and including midnight.

EDIT in response to comment:

What you are doing is informing someone of the latest time that you will be home, so that if they arrive at midnight you will be home.

We do not use either

We'll be home by midnight


We'll be home before midnight

to mean

We may be home earlier than midnight, say 11pm, so at midnight we might not actually be home.

This is the result of applying logic to language, and language use does not work that way, at least not all the time (double negatives in English are often used for emphasis, not to cancel each other out).

And yes, the meaning of the sentence changes when you switch from will be home to will have been home, just like it changes when you switch from will arrive home and will have arrived home. The future perfect talks about the present situation from the point of view of future time. Let's look at the two:

We'll be home by midnight.

is basically a present promise that refers to future time.

We'll have been home by midnight

talks about the "present situation" in the future. Consider

We'll have been home by midnight when Sam finally gets there.

This means that at whatever future time you are actually home (which time is by midnight), you will already be home at that future time when Sam gets to your home. It's not a construction that will be used often, but it's grammatical and it does differ from the use of will be home (what you have called the simple future).

  • If I use 'be home' to mean being present, then does 'We'll be home by midnight' must necessarily mean at midnight they will be present at home? By definition, 'by' means either before or at, so could it not mean that they will be home before midnight and not midnight? And this could be validated using future perfect tense by saying 'We'll have been home by midnight', this could mean when looking from the point of view of midnight we could say, now(midnight) we were home, but in reality at midnight we maybe at a different place. Is the above reasoning possible?
    – Policewala
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 5:38
  • @Policewala That is not the idiomatic meaning or communicative intent of the sentence. You are trying to turn the sentence into a logic problem, and by doing this, you are going astray. The sentence means that you will be home at midnight even if you arrive earlier. I've edited my answer. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:18
  • Thanks for your reply Alan, but I have been confused about this for many days now and still I am very confused than when I first thought about this. Now 'He will be happy by midnight', so does it mean he will be happy from now and upto including midnight? or At just one point between now and midnight? or Just at midnight? Since we are using 'by' we can't say just 'At' midnight or else we would have used just 'at' and not by.
    – Policewala
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 13:24
  • 1
    The use of by midnight does change with I will be happy. Again the phrase gives the latest possible time by which the person will be happy. He could start to be happy one second after he says the sentence, or he could start to be happy at 23:59:59 (one second before midnight). In any case, when the stated time of midnight arrives, the speaker will (still) be happy, no matter when they became happy. The speaker will be happy beginning at the moment they start to be happy and will stay happy until midnight, and will still be happy at midnight. Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 14:02
  • 1
    No, he will be happy at midnight refers only to the exact time midnight. It does not refer to any time prior to midnight. This is different than by midnight. I cannot again explain what by midnight means. I've explained the use of by midnight several times. It does not matter that both prepositions mean the person will be happy when the clock strikes midnight. The prepositions are not interchangeable here. Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 14:51

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