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Consider the following exchange:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email?
Bob: No, but I'm sure she'll send it eventually.

In this case, there's no upper bound on the period of time in which Charlotte can send the email to Bob for his expectation to be met. Suppose I want it to be limited by some point in the past or in the future:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?
Bob: No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually.

Can Bob say that? What about:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?
Bob: No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually-by-one-week-ago.

And what about:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?
Bob: No, but I'm sure she has sent/did send/will send it eventually-by-one-month-from-now.

How can Bob express his certainty that the email was sent, or will be sent, at some point in time between the day Alice mentioned and the limit time Bob is referring to?

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  • That is a strange usage. About the only way to use eventually with some form of past construction is if the person doing the sending has been long gone (dead, or in an unknown state) and the person making the statement has no way of knowing whether what was sent arrived. For example, "There is no record that Caesar ever made good on his promise, but it is likely that he did so eventually, despite (or perhaps due to) Cicero's constant haranguing." – Robusto Dec 1 '13 at 14:22
  • You can use eventually in the past: "He took forever to do X, but he eventually got around to it." I don't like either of your examples, though. I don't know what's wrong with the second; for the third, I don't think you can ever use eventually with a specific date (past or future). – Peter Shor Dec 1 '13 at 16:10
  • @Robusto: That's exactly what I was aiming for. The thing about the person being long gone is that there is this some long/infinite/indefinite stretch in which the 'eventually' occurs. – einpoklum Dec 1 '13 at 16:28
  • @PeterShor: I think the scope of this question is narrowed to the indeterminate state. That's at least how I read it and responded. – Robusto Dec 1 '13 at 16:35
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I would say that the use of eventually in the second example was possible. If Alice’s emphasis is on last month, then Bob would mean that Charlotte sent the email at some later date, without being sure exactly when.

I can’t easily imagine anyone saying or writing Bob’s speech in your third example. What he might say would be something like ‘No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually. I’ve got an idea I got it around the middle of January.’

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  • Clarified (I hope) the latter part of my question. – einpoklum Dec 1 '13 at 16:14
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About the only way for your second and third scenarios to make any sense is if Bob is pretty sure he had received the email but is unsure as to exactly when he received it. Allow me to expand the scenario a bit to illustrate what I'm suggesting.

Suppose Alice has known about the email for some time, since she, Bob, and Charlotte are all in this scenario together in some way. When Alice and Bob bump into each other, Alice is reminded of the said email and asks Bob if he'd received it yet. Since the email, to Bob, seems not that important, or at least as important as it may be to Alice, he has to jog his memory as to whether or not he'd received the email.

Consequently, Bob says, in effect,

"I'm not 100 percent sure I received it, but since I'm pretty sure I did not receive a follow-up email, at least recently, I must have received the original email by mid-January, since the event Charlotte was emailing everyone about takes place on February 1. In fact, I saw Charlotte last week, and she said "See you at the event on February 1," and I said 'OK.'"

As for the word eventually, again it might be appropriate given the above scenario. The word would function as a simple add-on indicating the uncertainty of Bob's having received the email. Perhaps Charlotte is customarily late in sending emails, and Bob's memory isn't that good, so he figures Charlotte did send the email eventually, though he's not sure when.

As for the third example which includes eventually, it sounds very awkward, stilted. To correct it, you might end up with something like the following:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?

Bob: No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually-by-January-15h, which was the cut-off date for responding to it, and I do remember having responded to it. I just don't remember exactly when.

In conclusion, if the above scenarios do not fit the circumstances, then neither your second nor your third examples would be correct. Moreover, they would sound just plain weird!

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Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?

Bob: No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually

Can Bob say that?

Bob should really say "No, but I'm sure she will send it eventually".

For "eventually-by-X", I'd simply use either "in time for" (though not for exact dates) or "before" (for rough periods of time or exact dates.)

E.g.

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?

Bob: No, but I'm sure she'll send it before January 15th

Or:

Alice: Did Charlotte send you that email last month?

Bob: No, but I'm sure she'll send it in time for Christmas

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    Edited my question to clarify the latter example. About the "sent it eventualy" - Bob wants to say that he's certain it was sent in the past, but isn't sure, when, i.e. that Charlotte did not let time pass until the present moment without sending the email. – einpoklum Dec 1 '13 at 16:13
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    @einpoklum: Alice : Did Charlotte send Tom that email before the end of the last academic year? Bob : No, but I'm sure she sent it eventually. works. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 1 '13 at 16:16
  • As @EdwinAshworth says, that should be fine. If you want to include the date, which is in the past, as per your edit, I'd be inclined to swap out the verb sent for received/got — "Did Charlotte send you that e-mail two months ago?" "No, but I'm sure I received it from her by the end of last week" – anotherdave Dec 1 '13 at 17:02

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