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Passage from the novella "Stories of Your Life" (filmed as "Arrival")

I remember a conversation we'll have when you're in your junior year of high school. It'll be Sunday morning, and I'll be scrambling some eggs ...

In the New York Review of Books, the accompanying text asks, "What tense is this?" It's a rhetorical question, for the answer is no tense (that is, if you listed all the tenses in English you wouldn't find one that reflects the sense of this passage. You couldn't capture the time sense of this passage in one clause.) . But what's going on is a coupling of the present tense with the future. It's a logically impossible tense in English, but does it exist in another language?

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    It's science fiction that self-consciously plays with time and meaning. – deadrat Jan 9 '17 at 4:41
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    Definitely fiction and really it isn't an impossible tense either. There are a couple normal tenses but an imaginative setting. It is present tense referring to a known future event in a future tense. "Write down exactly what you'd say to your grown child if you could tell them when they were in kindergarten about something that would happen to them in high school" You could reflect like that and share emotions and wisdom with people without any belief in time travel. We are capable of reflection: even if we can't travel back to live time in the past, imagining brings genuine emotion. – Tom22 Jan 9 '17 at 4:51
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    There is a tense which has often been discussed on this site called the historical present. What you have here is a very unusual case of the historical future - clearly used to create the report of a conversation held in the past about something which may happen, or indeed did happen in the more recent past. – WS2 Jan 9 '17 at 14:17
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    I will put it into an answer, and perhaps the "special prize" could be given in the form of votes? – WS2 Jan 9 '17 at 15:26
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    @Zan700 thanks for the interesting extra details . I'm afraid I don't know but I see see better what you're looking for. Certainly a culture with different ideas of time would have a langauge that reflected that... perhaps one with spiritual beliefs in reincarnation or something? If I think of anything I'll chime in. – Tom22 Jan 9 '17 at 19:00
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There is a tense which has often been discussed on this site called the historical present.

What you have here is a very unusual case of the historical future - clearly used to create the report of a conversation held in the past about something which may happen, or indeed did happen in the more recent past.

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