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Is it grammatical to use "Present Perfect" tense for something that is going to happen in future? As far as I know, the Present Perfect is used to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. Google Chrome however, is showing me the following message:

When Adobe Shockwave Player has finished installing, reload the page to activate it.

I wonder if the above sentence is correct because the installation process is something that will finish in future.

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English tenses behave differently in dependent clauses. You can say "I /fly/am flying/will fly/am going to fly/will be flying/ to New York tomorrow". You can't say "I have flown to New York tomorrow." But you can say "when/once/after I have flown to New York tomorrow, ..." I hope somebody can give an answer with more a precise description of what's going on here. –  Peter Shor Oct 26 '12 at 11:16
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You're starting from an indefinite point in future. From this point the installation has been done recently (=in the past) and the action you should do then (=now) is in the future of this indefinite point. –  Em1 Oct 26 '12 at 11:23

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It’s unhelpful to think of the present perfect construction solely in terms of past time. It is used in talking about the future following when, after, as soon as and until.

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I have not seen this mentioned in any grammar book. Can you please refer me to one of them? –  Meysam Oct 28 '12 at 6:26
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That's from 'An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage' <amazon.com/-Z-English-Grammar-Usage-Reference/dp/0582405742/…; by Leech and others. I consult it frequently. –  Barrie England Oct 28 '12 at 7:15

In a narrative, a succession of events is described. Most often, the events are cast in the past tense:
- This happened.
- Then this happened.
- Then this happened.

But they may also be cast in the present tense (the so-called ‘historical present’):
- This happens.
- Then this happens.
- Then this happens.

Note that in the latter example, it is clear that the ‘speech time’ is repeatedly moved forward, so that it always coincides with the ‘event time’. (Some formal grammars use the term ‘reference time’ to name this moving ‘speech time’ and distinguish it from the actual time when you are speaking—or, in written utterances, when you are read.)

Exactly the same thing happens when you tell someone to perform a sequence of actions, which is expressed using the imperative mood, unmarked for tense:
- Do this.
- Then do this.
- Then do this.

In effect, the ‘Thens’ keep moving your ‘speech time’ forward to coincide with the ‘events’.

In your example, When Adobe Shockwave Player has finished installing plays the role of ‘Then’: it shifts your ‘speech time’ into the future, and defines how you may recognize that you have reached that time.

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It is grammatically correct to use the present perfect tense to talk about actions that you are expecting to happen in the future.

For example:

I have not finished making dinner, but when I do we will eat lasagna.

Present perfect tense is appropriate for five situations:

  • Experience: I have lived in England.
  • Changes Over Time: Bill has lost his hair between last year and now.
  • Accomplishments: I have knitted three scarves for the fair.
  • Uncompleted but Expected Actions: When Joe has finished his homework, his mom will take him out for ice cream.
  • Multiple Actions at Different Times: Tina has taken the driver's test four times in the past six months.

Reference: Present Perfect

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It is the subjunctive mood, imaginary situation.

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Could you perhaps give a little more detail, like how to recognize this construction, or what resources someone could use to learn more about it? This answer is a little sparse. –  Cameron Oct 28 '12 at 16:42

The sentence "When Adobe Shockwave Player has finished installing, reload the page to activate it" is not really about the future.

The 'when' makes it conditional. When the condition that Adobe Shockwave Player has finished loading becomes true, then you should reload the page.

For actually speaking about the future, you can use will for intent; going to for a plan; present continuous for arrangements; and present simple for repeated events on a timetable. Present perfect doesn't get involved, though you can make a 'will have been' s0-called future perfect.

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