Is there a situation or question where the phrase will have been going to go is the best, most natural, or clearest response (or included in said response)?

I'm asking this probably somewhat silly question just for fun. It comes from my past musings on English's complexity and my observation of how difficult it must be for some people to grasp the meaning of multiple helping verbs. I imagine this phrase is one that very few non-native English speakers would be able to understand very quickly (and for that matter, perhaps not very many native English speakers, either).

Can this be a good way to express something and not just a contrived difficult English phrase?

  • 2
    What does the simpler phrase "have been going to go" mean? The phrase "going to" with (roughly) the meaning "will" sounds semantically weird with "been". I can figure out a context in which this could be used, but why not use the verb plan, as in "will have been planning to go"? This flows much more smoothly, and is just as morphosyntactically complex.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Sep 28, 2010 at 22:33
  • But planning doesn't always come into it: At some point, I will have been going to die for 70 years (or whatever). 'Been' is past and 'will' is future: that's why the tense is called the future perfect. Commented May 5, 2011 at 22:17
  • "Will have been going to" uses the future, past and present tenses at the same time and it sounds like the writer is confused. Since moving to a certain region of the country, I hear phrases like "previously had went" with great frequency. To me, it indicates a poor public educational system, though I try to allow for variations in dialect. Still, if the goal of proper language usage is to be understood by others, clarity is better than complexity. To me, a simple idea should never be lost to complex grammar. I was taught in a news writing class that if the reader must go over a passage twice
    – user10273
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 16:11
  • I understand where you're coming from, but I think your main point is not really relevant, here. The whole point of my question was that such a construction is very awkward. Also, describing the tenses like you have is not correct. Would you say "will have been going" uses "future, past, and present tenses at the same time?" It doesn't. It's a single tense called Future Perfect Continuous. Our public education system must be in shambles for you to have made this mistake! [snark snark]
    – ErikE
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 16:31
  • Also, news writing (called journalese by many outsiders) is not the same as good English (which we try to encourage on this site). News involves grabbing the reader's attention, simplicity, and concision; proper English involves choosing exactly the right word and construction, and avoiding ambiguity. The two may coincide, but often (particularly in headlines) they are opposed. Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 11:39

2 Answers 2


The reason the phrase is never used is because "will have been going to go" invariably includes "am going to go". But in theory, if your travel insurance company asked when you took the decision about your holiday, you could reply "By the time this letter arrives, I will have been going to go (to Acapulco) for fourteen days."

  • I guess it's pretty awkward, but it works. Even though the phrase may not ever be natural, a native English speaker should understand what it means.
    – ErikE
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 16:25
  • 7
    It works slightly better if you set it up in the preceding sentences: I am going to go. This has been true for a long time: when I heard from you last, I had been going to go for two days; yesterday I was still going to go; I am now going to go, and by the time this letter arrives I will have been going to go for two whole weeks.
    – psmears
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 16:49

Well, I can't think of an example for your exact phrase, but I can think of one with similar construction, and circumstances in which I might use it.

Example: I'm on holiday, writing a postcard to someone who I know is also going on holiday in the near future and in all likelihood won't be reading my missive until they get back from their holiday.

In that situation, I could exchange the standard "I hope you had a good holiday" with "I hope you will have had a good holiday". Yes, it's convoluted, but more temporally correct. (I wouldn't write it to a non-native speaker though).

  • I like it. I struggle with verb tenses in Portuguese, but dang, the plethora of helping verbs in English has got to be confusing to non-native speakers!
    – ErikE
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 7:57

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