Consider these two examples,

  1. I will have had eaten by that time.
  2. I will have had been working there for five years.

To me, the first sentence seems to express the proposition that, it is the present (t1); I will begin eating in a future moment (t2); finish eating by sometime after that (t3); and that eating will be relevant to the time referenced in the sentence, "that time" (t4).

Whereas, to me the second sentence seems to express the proposition that, it is t1; I will begin working somewhere at t2; I will continue working there until t3, at which time I will stop working there; and my time working there will be relevant to a later time that the speaker is discussing, t4.

Are these configurations grammatical? Do they have names?

  • 2
    They are not accepted constructions. Drop the hads and they're ordinary future perfects. – StoneyB Feb 21 '14 at 15:38
  • That said, if you said either sentence to a native speaker, they'll almost certainly understand your meaning. – Doc Feb 21 '14 at 15:45
  • 1
    I'll go ahead and coin "future pluperfect" for these – pavja2 Feb 21 '14 at 15:46
  • 1
    After mulling it over I think that there are situations where this works. For example: "If we keep coming to Taco Bell this often I will have had eaten 300 Crunchwrap Supremes by the time I graduate." – pavja2 Feb 21 '14 at 17:25
  • 1
    @pavja2 Ha. That's a good example. Perhaps, "Presently (t1) I expect (t1) that when I graduate (t3), I will have (t3) had eaten (t2) 300 Crunchwrap Supremes by sometime well before then (t2). (t1, t2, etc denote times, numbered from earliest to latest). – Hal Feb 21 '14 at 18:52

These configurations are not grammatical. It is interesting how in English, one can string together auxiliary verbs, but it's not without limits.

You have a few choices to make:

  • Is it past, present, or future? In the case of future, you will have the auxiliary verb will.
  • Is it perfect? If so, you will have the auxiliary verb have, placed in the proper tense.
  • Is it progressive? If so, you will have the auxiliary verb be, and your verb will end in -ing.

So you can create monstrosities like "I will have been eating for two hours". But you have pushed it too far. You have used the perfect marker have twice, and not only that, but you have conjugated them in different tenses (once in the future, once in the past). This doesn't make any sense.

Note that it is possible to have two occurrences of have, but they are not both auxiliary verbs in this case. In "I have had three bouts of flu", have is the auxiliary, making the sentence present perfect, and had is the main verb, in its participle form.

For fun, and to drive yourself crazy, see James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher. :)

Edit: You have dug up a paper that actually supports the presence of double have in some dialects. Not having access to the paper, I can only conjecture that I and most people like me (native US speaker) would find this construction to be strange, with only guesses as to what it could mean.

  • There's also passive BE + PaPpl. – StoneyB Feb 21 '14 at 15:42
  • Good catch. In that case, for purposes of tense, you can just think of it as the main verb. – WinnieNicklaus Feb 21 '14 at 15:48
  • 2
    Except you could have I will have been being eaten for two hours (perhaps by mosquitoes?). – StoneyB Feb 21 '14 at 15:56
  • In which case you have future perfect progressive, the -ing attaching to the main verb in the sentence, be. – WinnieNicklaus Feb 21 '14 at 15:58
  • I should clarify that when I said think of "it" as the main verb, "it" was referring to passive be. – WinnieNicklaus Feb 21 '14 at 15:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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