Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you've studied.

I'm just wondering why not use the Future Perfect tense here, as in:

At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied.

Sounds better to my ear... Will you please explain it to me?

I wouldn't have been bewildered if one of my American friends hadn't told me that the sentence is better with the Present Perfect.

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you've studied is the normal way of putting it. The Verb Phrase you've studied is written from the perspective of at the end of the year and relates the studying to the exam.

I can appreciate your bewilderment. The future perfect construction is indeed used to refer to a past action or event from a future viewpoint, but it normally requires some kind of adverbial expressing the time by which the action or event is to be completed. Thus, it would be possible to say At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied up to that point.

share|improve this answer
1  
Now it makes sense! As far as I've understood the choice of the tense here depends on the perspective which we look at it from. –  Desert Jan 2 '12 at 15:46
2  
The "supplementary clause" that comes to mind for me is "...you'll have studied by then". I think using the future perfect here calls slightly more attention to the fact of the intervening study rather than the exam itself, which is presumably why we feel drawn to say something more about it (highlighting when that study will take place, if nothing else). –  FumbleFingers Jan 2 '12 at 17:36
    
I don't see the problem with the future perfect. It's obvious what the reference point is. Likewise, the present perfect seems like it would also benefit from a time reference. That is, they both sound fine to me with our without time stamps. –  Mitch Jan 5 '12 at 14:12

With future tense sentences, English determines the tense of a relative clause by considering the time relative to the main clause. Since the studying (relative clause) was done prior to the exam (main clause), you use present perfect rather than future perfect tense here. The rules are quite complicated, and hopefully somebody can link to a more complete explanation.

share|improve this answer
    
And what about the sentence with the future perfect? Do you consider it incorrect or too formal? –  Desert Jan 2 '12 at 15:17
1  
I consider it incorrect. I can't think of any scenarios where you would use future perfect in a subordinate clause, although it's possible somebody could come up with one. –  Peter Shor Jan 2 '12 at 15:21
    
OK, thank you very much) Then I have to look for an explanation somewhere^) –  Desert Jan 2 '12 at 15:22

The confusion comes I think from where in the year you might be at the time. If you are half way through the year then how the two statements affect the work during the year differ:


"At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you've studied..."

This first form implies that the exam with cover everything you've studied so far (up to now). It is implicit that this may also cover work studies between now and the exam, but it may not. For example:

"At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you've studied. Any work studied between now and then will be examined the following year." - This is still correct


"At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied..."

This second form implies that the exam will cover everything between now and the exam but is not specific on the work you have already covered. By using "you'll have studied", implies the work in question may not have been studied yet.

"At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied. Any work studied between now and then will be examined the following year." - This is now incorrect

"At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied. Any work studied up to now is not included and was all covered on last weeks test." - This is correct

share|improve this answer

You can't say 'At the end of the year there will be an exam on everything you'll have studied.' , because 'there will' already expresses a future and therefore present tense is sufficient in any subordinate clauses. A similar example would be - You'll be the first person who knows.(not who will know). It is superfluous to use two future tenses in a nested way. I don't have any references, but I think such a construction where the sub-clause has a future tense when main clause also has a future tense may be grammatically wrong.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.