My partner used the phrase ".... something planned... whether it transpires or not remains to be seen.".

Now, I don't know for a fact, but I feel that transpir(es/ed) is (or should be) used in the past or presesnt tenses, but not the future - i.e.:

  • It transpires that she didn't know he was due to arrive.

  • It transpired that he had reneged when he played the club card.

All of the quotes from Collins are in this vein - i.e. no future usage.

However, here it transpires (please excuse the truly awful pun!) that they have an example of transpire in the future:

    1. If you have watched one golf game, then you have seen everything that will transpire in every other game of golf.

Any suggestions - particularly in the form of concrete references (URLs...) much appreciated.

  • 2
    What issue do you have with using transpire in the future tense? At the very least, many kinds of people (prophets, charlatans, analysts) make predictions about what will transpire. – TaliesinMerlin Mar 29 at 13:07
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    Your partner could equally well have used "Whether it happens or not remains to be seen" or "Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen". Both refer to a possible future event; it's just that the first variant uses the present simple to refer to this (cf "We fly to Spain on Tuesday") whereas the second uses the modal construction (cf "We will fly to Spain on Tuesday"). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 at 16:02
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    I too am curious. What is the concern with using this verb in the future tense? – FeliniusRex Mar 29 at 17:49

Transpire has two related meanings. The second was once beloved of pedants who argued against the first, but the first has a long history of use (see below*):


  1. to happen

“No one is willing to predict what may transpire at the peace conference.”

  1. If it transpires that something has happened, this previously secret or unknown fact becomes known


In either sense, a thing may transpire in the future, and there seems no reason to restrict its use to the present. A present secret may transpire (become known, be revealed) in the future. A thing may transpire (happen) in the future.

*Here is Merriam Webster on the verb:

Sense 1 : to take place : GO ON, OCCUR

Sense 2a : to become known or apparent : DEVELOP

Sense 2b : to be revealed : come to light

Can transpire mean 'to occur'?: Usage Guide Sense 1 of transpire is the frequent whipping boy of those who suppose sense 2 to be the only meaning of the word. Sense 1 appears to have developed in the late 18th century; it was well enough known to have been used by Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband in 1775. there is nothing new transpired since I wrote you last — Abigail Adams Noah Webster recognized the new sense in his dictionary of 1828. Transpire was evidently a popular word with 19th century journalists; sense 1 turns up in such pretentiously worded statements as "The police drill will transpire under shelter to-day in consequence of the moist atmosphere prevailing." Around 1870 the sense began to be attacked as a misuse on the grounds of etymology, and modern critics echo the damnation of 1870. Sense 1 has been in existence for about two centuries; it is firmly established as standard; it occurs now primarily in serious prose, not the ostentatiously flamboyant prose typical of 19th century journalism.

Merriam Webster

  • I'm slightly confused because your article says the opposite of your assertion that "The first was once beloved of pedants who argued against the second" – Kevin Mar 29 at 13:54
  • @Kevin thank you for asking for clarification. MW defined the two senses and I have now added them, and changed my own note to reflect the MW definitions. – Anton Mar 29 at 14:42

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