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(1) I will jump out from behind the couch. Then I will tell him: "I have been in the room all along."

(2) I will pronounce him dead. Then I will tell him: "You have been pronounced dead."

The above two are not of concern. I include them only so you see what utterance I'm trying to report in the following sentences. Consider, please:

(3) I will jump out from behind the couch and tell him I had been in the room all along.

(4) I will pronounce him dead and tell him he had been pronounced dead.

(5) I will jump out from behind the couch and tell him I have been in the room all along.

(6) I will pronounce him dead and tell him he has been pronounced dead.

(7) I will jump out from behind the couch and tell him I will have been in the room all along.

(8) I will pronounce him dead and tell him he will have been pronounced dead.

(3) and (4) sound most natural to me: completely grammatically correct. (English is my first language.) (5) and (6) sound like slangy versions of (3) and (4), okay for speech but not, let's say, for a high-school essay.

(7) and (8) sound completely wrong to me. Yet they look to me like the (prescriptive-grammar) grammatically correct ones. After all, the speech is taking place in the future, so you need "will have been" to report an action that, at that moment, will… have been.

So my questions are:

Are (7) and (8) actually the (prescriptive-grammar) grammatically correct ones, or are (3) and (4) (or something else)? And if (7) and (8) are (prescriptive-grammar) incorrect, why?


In case you're wondering why I used two examples, it's because the semantics are slightly different. Or so it seems to me, anyway. In (1) the being has been continuous until the time of speaking, whereas in (2) the pronouncement has occurred at a specific point in the past.

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I would say the only correct options are (3) and (6). –  Peter Shor Jan 29 '13 at 20:38
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3 Answers 3

I consider (5) and (6) to be the correct options. As seen in how do the tenses in English correspond temporally to one another, the use of "had been" implies that the action took place prior to some other also-completed action of interest. So if you say

(4) I will pronounce him dead and tell him he had been pronounced dead.

then the most logical temporal interpretation, since we only have one event ("I pronounce him dead") to work from, is that you are telling him that at some point prior to you pronouncing him dead, he had been pronounced dead already. Clearly this does not correspond to the desired meaning as given in sentence (2).

(7)/(8) are incorrect because the reported speech must be framed relative to the referenced timeframe, not to the current timeframe. To convert the sentence back to a quote:

I will pronounce him dead and tell him: "You will have been pronounced dead."

As another example, you'd say

I'm going to finish it, and then I'm going to tell him that I finished it.

Clearly at the time you are saying this, you haven't finished it. But you still use the simple present "I finished it" instead of the future perfect "I will have finished it" because at the time in the future where you are telling him, you have finished it.

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Re "we only have one event": there's also the telling: I pronounce him dead before I tell him. Re "reported speech must be framed relative to the referenced timeframe, not to the current timeframe" and "use the simple present... because at the time in the future where you are telling him, you have finished it": yet you say "I was caught starting to eat it; I excused myself by saying that I was very hungry" not "...I excused myself by saying that I am very hungry". –  msh210 Jan 29 '13 at 20:35
    
Indirect speech shifts back a tense from the actual speech... "I said, 'I am very hungry.'" -> "I said I was very hungry." Don't confuse yourself further by mixing the effects of indirect speech in with the effects of future/past action. –  Hellion Jan 29 '13 at 20:40
    
We have the telling, which is the "now" of the future. The "had been" construct puts the thing that we are telling him about prior to some event that is prior to the telling. The only event that it can therefore be prior to is you pronouncing him dead. –  Hellion Jan 29 '13 at 20:43
    
But if indirect speech shifts a tense back then "had been" represents something only before the telling. No? –  msh210 Jan 29 '13 at 21:20
    
Indirect speech at wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Hellion Jan 29 '13 at 23:09
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3 and 6 (and maybe 5, and just feasibly 4) are correct/valid. The other two are simply incorrect.

I'd rather use shorter (but equivalent) examples, and separate the two sets, so let's consider...

1: I'll say "I have been hiding"
3: I'll say I had been hiding
5: I'll say I have been hiding
7: I'll say I will have been hiding

3 is definitely beyond reproach, because at the (future) time of speaking I will no longer be hiding, and past perfect is the best way to convey this. We often say past perfect denotes further in the past, but it's more accurate to say it means earlier than the current temporal frame of reference, which in this case is the future time when I will be speaking.

5 is a slightly odd use of present perfect. But native speakers might often use this form in such contexts, because in speech (as opposed to writing) it's identical to 1, so it "sounds reasonable".

7 is definitely incorrect. Native speakers wouldn't normally use future perfect in such contexts.


2: I'll say "You have been shot"
4: I'll say he had been shot
6 I'll say he has been shot
8 I'll say he will have been shot

4 is "credible", but not really appropriate, because he's still "shot" while I'm telling him this.

6 is the standard "correct" form for the context.

8 is incorrect, as per 7.

In the second set, there's no equivalent to the uncertainty over 5, because in the reported speech version, "you" changes to "he". But 6 beats out 4 because the context has changed. What I say will still apply to his status at the time of speaking, so it doesn't need to be placed "further in the past".

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The example of 'hiding' is not equivalent to the examples in the question for the following reason: When you will speak, you will not be hiding any longer (as you pointed out), but you will still be in the room. To say that "I had been in the room" implies that one is no longer in the room. It would be correct if one were referring to past events: "I jumped out from behind the couch and told him I had been in the room all along." The correct statement in the given context is (5): "I will jump out from behind the couch and tell him I have been in the room all along," as Hellion pointed out. –  vidget Jan 29 '13 at 22:35
    
@vidget: I don't accept that analysis, which judging by your "When you will speak" is down to a non-native speaker attempting to apply more principles of logic to English than the language will bear. By your reasoning, the "correct" tense varies according to whether I'm going to say "I have been here" or "I have been hiding here". And what if I were to say "I have been sat here"? –  FumbleFingers Jan 29 '13 at 22:45
    
I said "when you will speak" to clarify that I was talking about the moment in time after the speaker has jumped out from behind the couch. This is because the correct formation depends on 1) what moment in time one is referring to and 2) whether the action is complete or ongoing. I had been hiding would be correct because the 'hiding' would be complete. I had been in the room could be correct if one were looking back on the situation: "I jumped out from behind the couch and told him I had been in the room all along." Please clarify why one would ever say "I have been sat here." –  vidget Jan 30 '13 at 19:05
    
It's a spoken rather than a written form, so written instances are usually quoting "I've been sat here". Most often as the precursor to a complaint about how long one has been sitting. As regards when you will speak, I understand why you phrased it that way. I'm just saying native speakers wouldn't normally put it like that even in our current (future! :) context. 67,000K hits in Google Books for when I do I will, none at all for when I will do I will. –  FumbleFingers Jan 30 '13 at 19:28
    
Okay, I see what you meant. I know it was an uncommon construction, but I thought it would help clarify with all the hullabaloo going on. My understanding is that you're referring to the transitive verb sit as in to sit someone down. Without knowing the context for your example, I don't know how to respond to it. I would say that I have been sat here is different from I have been hiding because hiding is progressive tense and sat is a participial adjective. –  vidget Jan 30 '13 at 20:14
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My take is that 7 and 8 are wrong because these actions describe what is being told and at the time it is being told, the actions are not longer happening in the future:

(7) I will jump out from behind the couch and tell him I will have been in the room all along.

(8) I will pronounce him dead and tell him he will have been pronounced dead.

"I will jump ... and tell" = "I will jump ... and I will tell"

The future tense applies to the action of telling, "I have been in the room" or "you have been pronounced dead" is what is being said. It has already happened at the time it is told.

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But you say "I pronounced him dead and told him he'd been pronounced dead", not *"I pronounced him dead and told him he's been pronounced dead". The action of telling is in the future, but so is the action in the reported speech. −1. –  msh210 Jan 29 '13 at 15:30
    
@msh210 What's the point of asking a question if you are sure that your answer is correct? (and in this case, no, it isn't) The action in the reported speech is in the past compared to the time it is told. "I will tell him that he has been..." By the time you "tell him", the action of pronouncing him dead is in the past. You can specify that it is over (past perfect) or simply that it has happened between a point of time in the past and now (present perfect). In no case can you use the future perfect as it would imply the action isn't complete. –  Sylverdrag Jan 29 '13 at 17:47
    
Sylverdrag, I'm not sure your answer is wrong, but if it's right then you have a very long way to go to convince me; hence the downvote. And the action is in the future at the time I'm speaking. –  msh210 Jan 29 '13 at 18:57
    
Upvote or downvote means that you KNOW the answer. Not a matter of "convincing" - if you don't KNOW, you have no business upvoting or downvoting. As for the action being in the future, nope. Look at the sequence: 1. You pronounce him dead, THEN 2. You tell him. What do you tell him? You tell him about the action in 1. 1 happens before 2, therefore 1 is in the past compared to 2. In your example, he has already been pronounced dead = future perfect is wrong. Future perfect describes an action that will be completed later: "By the time you get back home, you will have been pronounced dead". –  Sylverdrag Jan 30 '13 at 5:34
    
My question was "if (7) and (8) are (prescriptive-grammar) incorrect, why?". If the answer insufficiently explains why, then it's inutile (which is what a downvote is for: see the tooltip that appears when your mouse hovers over the downvote arrow). –  msh210 Jan 30 '13 at 5:37
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