If they dispatched the parcel yesterday, Jim will receive it next Friday. But if they dispatched it last week, then

  • A: Jim will have received it yesterday.
  • B: Jim received it yesterday.

Are A and B both grammatical? Do they differ in meaning? Is there other forms to express the intended meaning of associating a real (not counterfactual) past event with its past conclusion?


Max suggested the use of ‘should have’, but is that the only valid usage? I’ll provide some more examples with comments below:

Have you talked to Jim recently? Did he go to confront the neighbours when he was having issue with their noise last week? I told him not to because they’re violent people. If he went there:

  • A: They assaulted him.
  • B: They have assaulted him.
  • C: They would have assaulted him.
  • D: They should have assaulted him.
  • E: They could have / might have assaulted him. (variation in modality)
  • F: They will have assaulted him..
  • G: Something else.

Another example:

Did Jim pay the fine when I told him to last week? If he didn’t:

  • A: They charged him extra fees.
  • B: They have charged him extra fees.
  • C: They would have charged him extra fees.
  • D: They should have charged him extra fees.
  • E: They could have / might have charged him extra fees.
  • F: They will have charged him extra fees.
  • G: Something else.


Simple past and present perfect: I can find examples in different corpora and online sources where simple past is used:

If she lied, she perjured herself.

But this usage seems to imply high certainty or automatic association. What if we want to express lesser certainty?

The perfect tense is possibly just a variation (adding an existential sense):

If she lied, she has perjured herself.

‘Should have’: is also used commonly:

If you have paid your dues, you should have received a membership card.

But because ‘should have’ is also overloaded for recommendation, its usage sounds confusing and funny on the ear in the two examples above. (Unless you do mean to use it for recommendation maybe).

‘Will have’: The usage pattern of the future perfect does cover past actions, but I’m not sure about it’s usage in real past conditionals. Can’t find any examples.

‘Would have / could have / might have’: sound perfectly legal with variation in meaning of course, is there any issue with using them?

1 Answer 1


When you say "if they dispatched it last week" then you're talking about a hypothetical situation. You would normally say "then Jim should have received it yesterday".

Should is a prediction, rather than a statement of fact, which fits with the hypothetical status of the sentence.

  • 3
    Both are grammatical, but 'Jim received it yesterday' is a statement of a known fact rather than something inferred from the dispatch date. As Max suggests, 'Jim will have received it' is a hypothesis based on a high degree of confidence in the delivery service! Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 9:55
  • @KateBunting it's true, you could say "will have" if you're very confident in your hypothesis. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:23
  • @KateBunting: When you say 'is a statement of known fact', you mean the fact of the association between two events, right? That a parcel dispatched on date x is known to arrive on date y. But not that we know for fact that it has arrived on date y?!
    – BazAU
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:36
  • No, I meant that we would say that only if we know for certain. that Jim did receive his parcel yesterday. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:45
  • @KateBunting What's the point of the conditional then if we know for certain that it was received yesterday?! Why are we basing it on the protasis if it's a known fact?
    – BazAU
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:50

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