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One of the rules of using the perfect infinitive says that it can refer to something that will be completed at a point in the future.

We hope to have finished the building works by the end of March.

I would like to know what would happen if I changed the sentence to:

We hope to finish the building works by the end of March.

Is there a different meaning? Is it grammatically OK?

  • 51 views, 3 answers, only 1 upvote so far.I wonder why. – Itsme Aug 5 '14 at 15:43
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Both are fine grammatically but your alternative version changes the context. "We hope to have finished by X" refers to the situation after completion, implying that there will then be other issues to consider - issues affected by the completion. In contrast, "We hope to finish by X" only discusses the task itself, leaving open the possibility that you will have no involvement after X and will walk away. It doesn't imply that, but it doesn't invoke any consideration of the post-completion context, unlike the first.

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It's definitely grammatically fine. There is, perhaps, a very tiny difference in meaning between them, in that for the first I would expect the building to be expected to be complete at the end of March (so that I could go in, walk around, complain about bare wires, etc.) while with the second I would accept that the building was still being worked on on the last day of March for the finishing touches.

It's a pretty subtle difference though, and I think it would be irrelevant in most cases.

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There are a few issues at hand concerning words such as begin, start, end and finish.

These are time delineation terms, or temporal boundaries.

Some languages that do not have tense inflection, use these words to define the tense of a predicate. Their use would naturally coincide and overlap with grammatical tense inflection.

2ndly, finishing a building is a construction term. Finishing could include painting, stucco, siding, trimming, etc.

Finishing could also include a lengthy administrative process of inspecting, qualifying and certifying the fitness of a building or structure.

3rdly, even if finishing is a momentary event, as far as humans are concerned, finishing still takes more than 5 seconds.

  • I will finish eating at 5 pm tomorrow. At 5 pm, I will have the motivation to finish my eating.
  • I will have finished eating at 5:15 pm tomorrow. At 5:15 pm, I would no longer have the motivation or the necessity for the motivation to finish eating, because I will have finished eating.

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