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I know future tense cannot be used in time clauses. I would like to know, is the following incorrect?

You have to launch the game and quit the game before the file will show up.

I think it is as I cannot use "before" and future tense. However, it does not sound like purely time clause (I cannot "ask" properly WHEN.)

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Welcome to ESL&U. –  tchrist Mar 11 '12 at 17:32
    
"I know future tense cannot be used in time clauses." I have no idea what that means. –  Blessed Geek Mar 11 '12 at 18:03
    
@Blessed Geek: I think it's what they say in some ESL classes so that students don't make the mistake of saying "I will meet you at the airport when you *will come tomorrow" ... the second "will" here is indeed ungrammatical. –  Peter Shor Mar 11 '12 at 18:25
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Yes, but they get the rule wrong, of course. An ESL Zombie Rule, wow. It's not "future tense"; it's the epistemic sense of the modal auxiliary will. And it's not in "time clauses", it's in hypothetical clauses. And it's not that you can't use will in hypotheticals, it's just that you don't get the epistemic reading, only the deontic one that means 'be willing to'. Whence the Volition I mention. –  John Lawler Mar 11 '12 at 19:05
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4 Answers

Perfectly grammatical and meaningful in both cases.

The use of will in a potentially counterfactual before clause allows a deontic interpretation of will, however, which highlights the necessity of both launching, and then quitting, the game first, in order to get the file to show up afterwards.

This is because before NP will VP clauses indicate that NP is not normally willing to VP without the preparations in the main clause.

  • You have to tell him three times before he'll believe you.
  • You have to hold down the ALT key while pressing CTRL-P before it'll print.

Volition is not normally attributable to inanimate things, but software is easy to personify, especially in pejorative, refractory ways.

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+1 for volition –  Jim Mar 11 '12 at 17:57
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Let us presume you are a technical writer for computer software operation.

You are specifying the required sequence of stimulus that would promote an outcome.

First, let us establish the required stimulus leading to the outcome.

if (game is launched) then // First stimulus
{
  if (game has quit) then // 2nd stimulus requring 1st stimulus
  {
    display file.
  }
}

Therefore, your statement should be

You have to launch the game and then quit the game, before the file $will be displayed.

Where $will is either

will, can, would, could, should or might.

Secondly, we have to establish the mood of your specification.

  • the file will certainly show up, no doubt about it.
  • the file can show up, but there are more conditions to be satisfied.
  • the file could possibly show up, due to ill-defined circumstances.
  • the file should show up, I believe so hmm... because it is the expected outcome.
  • the file might show up, but we hope it would not.

3rdly, let us clarify the word "will". There are two distinct usages here.

  • will = having the propensity to show up. As in "the will to survive".
  • an implied assertion of future tense due to unsatisfied conditions/stimulus that have yet to occur.

Let us lean towards

will = having the propensity (spontaneous tendency) to be displayed.

and that the mood of your specification is

the file will certainly show up, no doubt about it.

Therefore, your specification should be:

You have to launch the game and then quit the game, before the file will be displayed.

or

You have to launch the game and then quit the game, before the file will show up.

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Because "the file will show up" is a dependent clause used after conditional conjunction "before", I think that Simple Present should be used

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You have to launch the game and quit the game before the file shows up.

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