In section "10.3.4 Will / would" of "Oxford modern English grammar", the author gives the following example:

31 You will have gathered from the above that I, for one, do not intend to re-apply.

and he states that this use of WILL concerns past time:

Notice that this use of WILL may concern present time, as in (30 ), or past time, as in (31 ), where WILL is followed by the perfect auxiliary HAVE.

As far as I know, the perfect construction generally expresses anterior time (see "The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar" 2nd by Bas Aarts et al.). The exception is the present perfect, which expresses current relevance. So the time expressed by WILL in example 31 is present time, but the perfect construction "have gathered" places the action denoted by the verb to a time before the present time.

Q: Is my understanding correct that WILL in example 31 does not express past time, but present time and the perfect construction expresses an anterior time, which in this case is in the past?

Edit: The author of "Oxford modern English grammar" provided the following answer to my question:

You need to distinguish between ‘time’ and ‘tense’. The modal verb ‘will’ is a present tense modal and in combination with the perfect auxiliary ‘have’ it refers to past time. The wording in my grammar book could be better.

Edit 2:

According to "A Comprehensive Grammar of The English Language" by Quirk. et al. on page 190:

In its broadest possible interpretation, the perfective indicates ANTERIOR TIME; ie time preceding whatever time orientation is signalled by tense or by other elements of the sentence or its context.

To illustrate this definition, Quirk et al. give the following two examples, among others:

  • [4] By next week, they will have completed their contract.

  • [5] I may have left the key at the office (last night).

In [4] and [5], the infinitive perfective occurs after a modal auxiliary, and the time orientation derives not from the infinitive itself (which is tenseless), but from the modal. 'Will' in [4] sets up an ancillary time orientation T_2 in the future, so that the meaning of the whole construction 'will have completed' is 'past in the future'. In [5], on the other hand, the modal 'may' has a present orientation, and T? is once again T_1.

  • By now you will have gathered... It isn't before now. The gathering has surely taken place as of now.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 14:19
  • I could be describing a hypothetical escape plan. By the time you reach the train station, the police will have gathered there in numbers, expecting you to flee the city in that manner, so you must be in disguise. will + present perfect places the completed state of the verb as of a point-in-time, i.e. not later than that point-in-time and possibly coincident with it or earlier than it.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 14:29
  • Absent an explicit reference to a point-in-time, the point-in-time must be gleaned from context, the "now" of the utterance being the default.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 14:40
  • The idea that tenses/aspects always mean the same thing, or express only one thing, is a simplification by grammar books. Most tenses have multiple meanings based on context, and can often have different connotations that go beyond simple issues like "was this before or after that?" For instance "You will have gathered that..." can mean "I don't know if you've worked it out by now, but to avoid arguing with you, I'm going to pretend that it's obvious that..."
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:12
  • will have + past participle is called future perfect. The future perfect tense is for talking about an action that will be completed between now and some point in the future. Grammarly
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 21 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


There is an implied "by now/already" in the sentence

31 You will, by now/already have gathered from the above that I, for one, do not intend to re-apply.

The speaker is making a prediction about an event that has already happened, and of whose outcome he has no knowledge, but which he assumes has taken place.

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