1

If the Police shut the High Street one day and my colleague asks me why, I may say to them :

They will probably have done that because of the accident this morning,

is this peculiar to BrE ?

'They will have done' is a future expression. But I am speaking of a past event. I could say 'they would have done that because ...' or 'they did that because ...' which both express past events.

But I often express 'will have' to denote something that is past.

Does AmE do this as well ?

5
  • 1
    Another reason for concluding that English does not have such a thing as a future tense.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 7 '18 at 16:02
  • @ColinFine That thought did cross my mind, but I decided not to raise the issue as I know it is a thorny one. But perhaps I have raised it (again) unintentionally.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 7 '18 at 16:17
  • The reason the person says it that way is that they are making it especially clear that they themselves don't actually know the cause. They are implying that it will likely be learned in the future that the reason that they have done that is the accident that occurred this morning. I will concede that, as an American, I've only heard British people say such things that way. Americans would generally say, "They probably did that because of the accident this morning," but that doesn't convey as much tentativeness in conjecturing what the cause will turn out to be.
    – Billy
    Jul 7 '18 at 17:32
  • Basically, I would suggest that any difference isn't actually between American English and British English but is actually a cultural difference wherein Americans are more willing to be wrong about predictions they've made and wherein British people are more reluctant because saying something that turns out to be wrong, even a predication, is nevertheless perceived in British culture as, in some degree, compromising their integrity, their word.
    – Billy
    Jul 7 '18 at 17:46
  • @Billy You have made me wonder if I am actually expressing 'they have willed to do it because ...'. I wonder if I am trying to convey what the intention was of the persons I am referring to. It is not a future statement at all - it refers to a will in the past.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 7 '18 at 18:09
2

I think you are referring to the following construction:

will have + past participle:

Construction of will have and past participle is rather interesting. It is used to “express certainty or confidence about the past” (Swan 622).

  • Paul said he would call April to tell her he’s not going to the party, and I’m sure he has.

Rephrased using WILL:

  • Paul will have phoned April to tell her he’s not going to the party, because he said he would.

(languagebits.com)

It appears it is not a specific BrE construction. The following usage examples are both from BrE and AmE.

1
  • One way of looking at this is that will, like all the other modals, has an epistemic reading as well as a deontic one.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 7 '18 at 17:45

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.