I've been guessing that would have p.p can be used for future and it has present reference time. But I've not met the case before this. I strongly suspect that the example's reference time is present. Is this really the case?

Any place cold is definitely out, I decide. Easy enough, just choose the opposite--a warm place. Then I can leave the coat and gloves behind, and get by with half the clothes. I pick out wash-and-wear-type things, the lightest ones I have, fold them neatly, and stuff them in my backpack. I also pack a three-season sleeping bag, the kind that rolls up nice and tight, toilet stuff, a rain poncho, notebook and pen, a Walkman and ten discs––got to have my music––along with a spare rechargeable battery. That's about it. No need for any cooking gear, which is too heavy and takes up too much room, since I can buy food at the local convenience store.
It takes a while but I'm able to subtract a lot of things from my list. I add things, cross them off, then add a whole other bunch and cross them off, too.

My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it'd be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.
During my first two years in junior high, I'd worked out, training myself for this day. I started practicing judo in the first couple years of grade school, and still went sometimes in junior high. But I didn't join any school teams. Whenever I had the time I'd jog around the school grounds, swim, or go to the local gym. The young trainers there gave me free lessons, showing me the best kind of stretching exercises and how to use the fitness machines to bulk up. They taught me which muscles you use every day and which ones can only be built up with machines, even the correct way to do a bench press. I'm pretty tall to begin with, and with all this exercise I've developed pretty broad shoulders and pecs. Most strangers would take me for seventeen. If I ran away looking my actual age, you can imagine all the problems that would cause. Other than the trainers at the gym and the housekeeper who comes to our house every other day––and of course the bare minimum required to get by at school––I barely talk to anyone. For a long time my father and I have avoided seeing each other. We live under the same roof, but our schedules are totally different. He spends most of his time in his studio, far away, and I do my best to avoid him.
(Kafka on the Shores, tr. by Philip Gabriel)

  • Isn't the reference time given by "any later", which would make it the future? Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 12:26
  • Speaking from the present about a hypothetical future self, it really should be “I will have missed my chance”. Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 18:59
  • 1
    As a side note, I notice a lot of learners use met where it doesn't sound right (as you did in one of your sentences). Instead of "I have not met [x] before", try "I have not seen [x] before" or "I have not come across [x]" before :) Hope that helps!
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


I think this is actually incorrect usage on the part of the author. Would have implies "If I had left any later, I would have missed my chance," following the standard pattern of "If X had taken place, Y would have taken place." This pattern implies that the events discussed are in the past.

From the context, however, it seems like at this point in the narrative, the narrator hasn't actually run away from home yet, so the events discussed are in the future. The sentence should be:

"Any later and I will have missed my chance."

This is the future perfect tense. The future perfect is used rather than present perfect or past perfect because "later than my fifteenth birthday" is implied to be in the future.

Now, if this is looking back on these events as if they happened in the past, it should be,

My fifteenth birthday was the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it would have been too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.

  • One of the rare times that the answer is "The professionally published book has a mistake"! Nice answer. It's not exactly easy to write in first-person present-tense, so I think the author just made a mistake, and the editor missed it. Nice answer, +1!
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 20:21

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