Can I use "when" + future tense in this case?

I'm not sure when it will be released.


3 Answers 3


After when, you use present tenses like simple present, present continuous, present perfect, etc. to refer to the future - where when introduces a subordinate clause But, It does not apply to indirect question or constructions as in

I am not sure when I will clean the house.
I'm not sure when it will be released.

Yes, you can and another correct alternative would be:

I'm not sure when it's going to be released.

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    +1, but I always like to mention on these occasions that English doesn't have a future tense. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 19:09
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    @tchrist: I’ll let the British linguist David Crystal do it: ‘a change in the form of a verb to mark the time at which an action takes place’. Most linguists, including David Crystal, recognize only two tenses in English, present and past. ‘He walks’, for example, is in the present tense, and ‘he walked’ is in the past tense. In the absence of a future tense, English can express the future in several ways: ‘he will walk’ and ‘he is going to walk’, and also, in some circumstances, the present tense ‘he walks’ and the progressive construction ‘he is walking’. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 19:38
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    @tchrist ‘English has a binary (i.e. two-way) tense system’(‘Linguistics: An Introduction’ by Andrew Radford and others). ‘English has only two tenses: a non-past (present) tense . . . and a past tense.’ (Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts’ by R L Trask). ‘English has only two tense forms: present and past.’ (‘Rediscover Grammar’ by David Crystal) Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 20:01
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    @tchrist: But 'put' and 'set' do have a past tense. The present tense in the 3rd person singular is 'he puts' and 'he sets'. In the past tense they become 'he put' and 'he set'. Anyway, there's no point arguing with me about it. I merely report the orthodox view in the academic linguistic community. If you want to challenge that view, you are of course entititled to do so. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 20:05
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    @tchrist: 'I will speak' expresses the future through the use of the modal auxiliary 'will' and the plain form of the verb 'speak'. That does not constitute a tense any more than 'I am going to speak' does. I wouldn't say that 'je vais parler' was a tense, but I would say that 'je parlerai' was. Anyway, I suspect we have abused the Stack Exchange rules for too long already to pursue the discussion here. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 20:26

Per existing answers, "future" tense is more common in such constructions. But per Barrie's comment to Rimmer's answer, English doesn't really have a future tense anyway.

I see nothing wrong with, say, I'm not sure when it's available. I accept there is often at least some implication that the date of availability/release/whatever may actually have already been set (even if that date isn't known to the speaker), but I don't think this is a precondition for the phrasing.

  • This says otherwise.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 23:07
  • @tchrist: That can say it until it's blue in the face, but I would never run out of examples from competent speakers/writers to show that these rules are by no means sacrosanct. Here are 8000 instances of I'm not sure when it. Have a look, and you'll find plenty that continue in the present tense. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 23:14
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    My point is that English clearly has a future BLAHBLAH, but that in this forum I am forbidden from giving it a name. That is stupid. Everyone knows it as the future tense, the OED concurs, and everything else is just so much dancing on the head of a pin.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 23:17
  • I do sympathise with your frustration. Obviously English manages to talk about the future just as much as other languages, and we do it by varying the words we use. But you must surely see that oftentimes it's not entirely clear whether we're really talking about the actual future, the present, or a possibility that may either be happening now or may happen in the future. In my example above, I specifically make the point that what's being spoken of can be envisaged as either present or future, sometimes simply depending on how you think about it, not on what verb forms you use. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 23:30
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    @FumbleFingers Morphologically, an English verb — meaning one single word alone — can only be in the present or the past. But a verb phrase often includes auxiliaries, and the resulting ‘compound tense’ is how we express many other nuances, including the future. No other language I’ve ever studied pretends that compound tenses are not real tenses. The Spanish pluperfect has a simple version direct from Latin (literary: hablara) and a compound version from proto-Romance (había hablado). Both are rightly deemed pluperfect. And its simple future can translate to ‘might’ not ‘will’; nuances.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 3:02

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