Would a native speaker when tumbling against constructions comprising of the analytical forms of the Subjunctive Mood (would, should+perfect infinitive) or a compound modal verbal predicates (could, might+perfect infinitive), be it in the conditional complex sentences or non-conditional simple sentences, take in their meaning with the Perfective Future aspect when there are definitive time indications? For example:

  1. If I were given instruments today in the evening (it is morning now), I would/could have pulled the job off by 2 p.m. tomorrow.
  2. I would/could have pulled the job off by 2 p.m. tomorrow.
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    I don't follow the question (nor the description, but that's normal here; everybody uses their own descriptive terms). Are you asking whether the example sentences are grammatical? What is the difference between the two examples? Dec 1, 2020 at 22:39
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    Given that a sentence like I am sure he will have finished the job yesterday is a statement in the present regarding a past event, I can't see how calling that future anything makes any sense at all. Now work out the backshifted version of that: I was sure he would have finished the job yesterday. Still not much "future" there: everything is in the past, more even than in the original non-backshifted version. Where then is this "future" you speak of? That would just means "was going to".
    – tchrist
    Dec 1, 2020 at 23:45
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    Native speakers don't put anything down as "future perfect". Native speakers don't even know what "passive" means, let alone "future perfect", which doesn't really mean anything in English anyway, since there's no future tense. Are you asking what the appropriate terminology is? Dec 2, 2020 at 23:16
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    @JohnLawler Eugene has been asking many questions related to all this for the better part of a year now. The one right before this one was 1, which I alas answered in greater length than success. His earlier questions include 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. I'm ready to chalk it all up to misleading EFL textbooks or instructors.
    – tchrist
    Dec 3, 2020 at 2:45
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    A direct question, if you would, please. I will attempt to answer this one, mutatis mutandis. Dec 3, 2020 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


I have modified the original question, stripping irrelevancies following comments, to:

Can constructions like

  • (If you gave it to me in December,) I would have finished the task already by January

with or without the if-clause, mean that the action in the main clause is slated to be finished by the defined time in the future?

One reason why it's hard to answer this question is because the vocabulary is strange. One pulls a task off only if the task is a crime, usually involving theft, for instance. And slated to refers to a particular official slate of events, which is contrary to the presuppositions of pull the task off. Who's keeping the slate, and how are they related to the task? And then already refers to some previous completion estimate and its incorrectness. The original mentioned giving instruments, and that's even more problematical.

Judging grammaticality requires imagining a context in which the sentence makes sense, and then judging how difficult that was. In this case, there are so many incongruities in the example sentence. I've taken quite a few liberties with it already, but I think the question is about what the speaker expects the listener to assume about what the speaker expected to happen, as contrasted with what really happened. And maybe what some schedule listed as supposed to have happened.

A sentence I can imagine a native speaker tumbling against constructions comprising of mixed modals and perfects might use (i.e, might speak aloud with an intention to communicate with someone who's attending to them) is

  • I would have finished the task by January.

This means that my estimate is, or was, January. The difference in tense depends on what actually is meant. This could be counterfactual: You didn't get it to me in time and I didn't finish it, though if you had I (think I) would have.

Or it could be simply hypothetical estimating: You want it done by January; all right. If you can manage to get it to me in time, I (estimate I) would have it finished by January.

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    'One reason why it's hard to answer this question is because the vocabulary is strange. 'I've filed this away. It will save time. Dec 3, 2020 at 16:14
  • @John Lawler Thank you so much for your help! You are the first who approached my question most closely and your answer is the most expedient. Let me, please, inasmuch as you enjoy answering questions, define more accurately the gist of my key issue using some of your inferences: when there is a reflection of something counterfactual relating to some point in time in the future (I'll switch your sentence into the future mode: You will not get it to me in time and I will not have finished it, though if you did I (think I) would have the task finished by the 31-st of January of the year 2021).
    – Eugene
    Dec 4, 2020 at 11:10
  • And what expresses it in the best way (in my humble oppinion) is going to be: "If you gave it to me on the 31-st of December of the year 2020, I would have finished the task by the 31-st of January of the year 2021". Is it possible, for pity's sake..., please? (or "...,I would have the task finished by the 31-st of January of the year 2021" is the only correct version?)
    – Eugene
    Dec 4, 2020 at 14:07
  • They both work, though they aren't the same construction. Dec 4, 2020 at 15:08
  • @John Lawler You have my deepest thanks!
    – Eugene
    Dec 5, 2020 at 8:35

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