in the future, many animals <may have been> altered

Blue_bird

Member
Taiwannese
Good day, WR members

I've got a question about the use of modal perfect (may have been) here in the bold part below; as far as I know, it's often used when we're talking the possibility of a thing or action to take place in the past. For example, ''he might have missed the bus this morning, and we have been waiting there for him for two hours''. But in the following extracts, it appears that the writer made an assumption for past while using future as reference (signposting: in the not too distant future).Now, I was wondering what's the point of ''may have been'' there, and would the meaning remain unchanged if I'd like to use ''may be''?

Cheers
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Extract:
There were ways to edit the genomes of some plants and animals before the CRISPR method was unveiled in 2012 but it took years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. CRISPR has made it cheap and easy.

CRISPR is already widely used for scientific research, and in the not too distant future many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes
may have been altered with CRISPR. In fact, some people already are eating CRISPRed food.

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/definition/what-is-crispr/#ixzz77Qg4EIdO
 
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Now, I was wondering what's the point of ''may have been'' there, and would the meaning remain unchanged if I'd like to use ''may be''?
    Hello, Blue bird. May have been expresses the idea of the past in the future. At some point in the future, people may look back at the recent past and know that their gardens or homes have been altered with CRISPR.

    In my opinion, it wouldn't change the sentence much if you used the simpler may be: ...gardens or homes may be altered with CRISPR.
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The first sentence (the 2nd half of which makes little sense) is in the active voice:

    He (subject) might have missed (verb) the bus (object)

    But the other example is in the passive voice of the future perfect, formed using:

    modal verb​
    + bare perfect infinitive of the verb to be
    + past participle of the transitive verb denoting the relevant action​
    For example:

    may + have been + altered​
    ACTIVE VOICE:
    in the not too distant future, CRISPR may have altered many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes.

    PASSIVE VOICE:
    in the not too distant future, many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes may have been altered by/with CRISPR.
     

    Blue_bird

    Member
    Taiwannese
    Hello, Blue bird. May have been expresses the idea of the past in the future. At some point in the future, people may look back at the recent past and know that their gardens or homes have been altered with CRISPR.

    In my opinion, it wouldn't change the sentence much if you used the simpler may be: ...gardens or homes may be altered with CRISPR.
    Hi owlman5, thanks for your reply.

    Though I'd read your reply few times, I'm not sure if I understood ''the idea of the past in the future''. According to your explanation, my understanding is the writer made that statement (the bold part) based on his or her conceived future. He or she conceived that some in 2024 (which is future for people in 2021), for example, may see the news and realise that the foods they ate at time before 2024 might have been CRISPRed food.

    Am I right?
     
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    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    You're welcome.
    Am I right?
    Yes. The writer is imagining how things might be in the future.

    He or she conceived that some in 2024 (which is future for people in 2021), for example, may see the news and realise that the foods they ate at time before 2024 might have been CRISPRed food.
    :thumbsup: This makes sense. In the future, somebody may realize that their food has been CRISPRed. The food may already have been CRISPRed for some length of time when the year 2024 begins. The tense is fairly complicated. I don't think that it was necessary to use may have been altered, but the author chose to look at the recent past (one that took place in the future) from an imaginary moment even farther in the future.
     
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    Blue_bird

    Member
    Taiwannese
    The first sentence (the 2nd half of which makes little sense) is in the active voice:

    He (subject) might have missed (verb) the bus (object)

    But the other example is in the passive voice of the future perfect, formed using:

    modal verb​
    + bare perfect infinitive of the verb to be
    + past participle of the transitive verb denoting the relevant action​
    For example:

    may + have been + altered​
    ACTIVE VOICE:
    in the not too distant future, CRISPR may have altered many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes.

    PASSIVE VOICE:
    in the not too distant future, many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes may have been altered by/with CRISPR.
    Hi lingobingo. Thanks for your reply.

    You're right. The first half of the first sentence is more relevant to the ''may have been''.
    And thanks for pointing out the different between my invented example and extracts. Yes, one is active voice while the other is passive one. Actually, I just want to give an example for the occasions where model perfect can be used and did not pay attention to passive voice.

    ''But the other example is in the passive voice of the future perfect, formed using:''

    One thing I don't know is what it's called for ''may + have been +''? Future perfect or modal perfect?
    Cheers.
     

    Blue_bird

    Member
    Taiwannese
    You're welcome.

    Yes. The writer is imagining how things might be in the future.


    :thumbsup: This makes sense. In the future, somebody may realize that their food has been CRISPRed. The food may already have been CRISPRed for some length of time when the year 2024 begins. The tense is fairly complicated. I don't think that it was necessary to use may have been altered, but the author chose to look at the recent past (one that took place in the future) from an imaginary moment even farther in the future.
    Thanks, again. Now I know my understanding is correct.

    ''but the author chose to look at the recent past from an imaginary moment in the future.'' I agree.
    After reading the surrounding context many times and, I think the reason why the writer use this rather complicated grammar may be just to stress the possible of the present of CRISPRed food at moment (2021) as the implicit meaning of the next sentence ''in fact some people already are eating CRISPRed foo''....

    Cheers, mate!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Native speakers don’t normally use the term modal perfect, as far as I’m aware.

    Most sources seem to skirt around this terminology problem! I’d be inclined to say that the will in the future perfect can be replaced by can or may, and the would in the conditional perfect by could or might, in each case as a more tentative version of the statement.
     

    Blue_bird

    Member
    Taiwannese
    Native speakers don’t normally use the term modal perfect, as far as I’m aware.

    Most sources seem to skirt around this terminology problem! I’d be inclined to say that the will in the future perfect can be replaced by can or may, and the would in the conditional perfect by could or might, in each case as a more tentative version of the statement.
    Interesting. You means Modal Perfect is basically the same as Future Perfect, but native speakers tend to use the later, and here in the bold sentence ''may'' is used in place of ''will''. If so, may I ask one more question?

    According to English Page, Future perfect shows that something will happen before a specific time in the future. And other grammar sites suggest the similar idea – future perfect is somehow confined to an action or thing that will or is highly likely to happen. But the meaning of the extracts is less dogmatic. So, can I say future perfect can also be used in expressing uncertainty of future. For example, This historical building may have been restored for visitors by next year ( Nobody can premise this completion of the project).

    English Page_Future Perfect

    Cheers
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I only mean what I said. Presumably the term ‘modal perfect’ is one that was coined specially for learners of English as a second or foreign language?

    All perfect verb forms relate to a period leading up to a fixed endpoint in time (whether that time marker is expressed as a date/time or denoted by a certain event). That endpoint may be in the past, present or future, depending on the context, and it may be real or hypothetical. The standard terms for those modal constructions are past perfect, present perfect, future perfect, and conditional perfect.
     

    Blue_bird

    Member
    Taiwannese
    I only mean what I said. Presumably the term ‘modal perfect’ is one that was coined specially for learners of English as a second or foreign language?
    I think so. And perhaps that is the gap for me as an ELS. Thank you for letting me know.
    All perfect verb forms relate to a period leading up to a fixed endpoint in time (whether that time marker is expressed as a date/time or denoted by a certain event). That endpoint may be in the past, present or future, depending on the context, and it may be real or hypothetical. The standard terms for those modal constructions are past perfect, present perfect, future perfect, and conditional perfect.
    Thinking for a while, I'm convinced and I probably know what did you mean by the standard terms for those modal constructions. Actually, by using the conception of future perfect, the structure and meaning of '' in the not distant future,....may have been...'' would be easier to understand.

    you have a great day

    Cheers!
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    All perfect verb forms relate to a period leading up to a fixed endpoint in time (whether that time marker is expressed as a date/time or denoted by a certain event). That endpoint may be in the past, present or future, depending on the context, and it may be real or hypothetical. The standard terms for those modal constructions are past perfect, present perfect, future perfect, and conditional perfect.
    I don't agree with your final sentence.

    The past perfect and present perfect are not modal forms at all. Modal forms are constructed with a modal verb + bare infinitive, the core modals being can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would. Modal perfect forms are constructed with a modal verb + have + a third form (past participle). The form with will was traditionally known as the future tense, and the form with will have as the future perfect, but few grammarians use those terms now.

    Few grammarians would speak of a conditional or conditional perfect form of a verb.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, you’re right, of course. The present and past perfect are formed with auxiliary have, not a modal. I meant those perfect forms, not those modal ones. My blip.

    But the future perfect and conditional perfect do both use auxiliary verbs classed as modals: will and would. I’m assuming that the term “modal perfect” is used in teaching English students those constructions, and that it includes variants in which a different modal is used, such as: he should have finished by 9 pm; we may/might have learned the truth by then?

    If the traditional terms are now considered obsolete, what have they been replaced with?
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I'll stick to the sentence in the original question in an attempt not too go too far off topic.


    1. CRISPR is already widely used for scientific research, and in the not too distant future many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes may have been altered with CRISPR.

    The speaker is presenting the possibility of a future (with respect to now) past (with respect to the future time) act of altering.

    2. CRISPR is already widely used for scientific research, and in the not too distant future many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes will have been altered with CRISPR.

    The speaker is presenting the certainty of a future (with respect to now) past (with respect to the future time) act of altering.

    3. CRISPR is already widely used for scientific research, and already many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes may have been altered with CRISPR.

    The speaker is presenting the possibility of a past (with respect to the time of speaking) act of altering.

    4. CRISPR is already widely used for scientific research, and already many of the plants and animals in our farms, gardens or homes will have been altered with CRISPR.

    The speaker is presenting the certainty of a past (with respect to the time of speaking) act of altering.

    All four sentences contain a modal perfect form expressing a degree of probabilty (possibility or certainty) of a situation (the alteration of many plants and snimals). In the first two, that situation is in the future, prior to the not-too-distant future time spoken of. In the third and fourth, that situation is in the past. i.e., prior to the present time of speaking.
     
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