may/might/could have done for future sense

boggiee

Senior Member
Turkish
Hi,

- By the end of next September, she may/might/could have educated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.

- In two years, she may/might/could have educated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.

I gather that 'will have educated' would seem correct but I would like to ask if I can use ''may - might - could have done'' to talk about possible future situations. I know that we use them in past situations, by the way.

If it is OK, can we apply it to 'must have done' and 'should have done' as well?

- By the end of next September, she must/should have educated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.

Thanks.
 
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  • stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    By the end of next September, she may/might/could have graduated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.
    I would think "may/might/could" all work in this sentence. "May" and "might" are basically the same, although the latter is more attentive.

    "Could" can refer to her ability or possibility like "might". It's harder to decide its meaning.

    In two years, she may/might/could have graduated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.
    This doesn't work. You need "by 2016", "by 2024", not "in two years".

    By the end of next September, she must/should have graduated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.

    Must sounds like an obligation. She must do it, otherwise she will be punished.

    Should is tricky to me. Is it an obligation like "must", or is it a prediction. I don't know.

    These are my non-native opinions. We need to wait for native speakers' help.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    "Could" can refer to her ability or possibility like "might". It's harder to decide its meaning.
    Don't get too hung up on those ability/possibility/probability/obligation/etc descriptions. They are just rough models for new learners to categorize the idea behind it. Native speakers acquired the language approx. at the age of 2-5 and by the time they get to school they already know how to use those words without knowing anything about the grammar behind it!
    If they can do it, you can do it. As a learner it's probably best to learn the basic ideas behind those words and concepts first and then give your mind some time to figure it out all by itself. That actually works! :)

    This doesn't work. You need "by 2016", "by 2024", not "in two years".
    Nope, that's not true in this case. Whether you say "by 2024 she should have garduated" or "in 2 years she should have graduated" makes no semantic difference. In both cases you're referring to a future point in time. "By 2024" is semantically equal to "before the year 2024 is over" and "in 2 years" in reference to the time of speaking, now, amounts to the same thing.

    Must sounds like an obligation. She must do it, otherwise she will be punished.

    Should is tricky to me. Is it an obligation like "must", or is it a prediction. I don't know.
    No and no. Both words don't express obligation here.
    "In 2 years she should have graduated" is a prediction and it is something you expect to happen for all practical purposes.
    "In 2 years she must have graduated" is a bit unusual but not impossible in the right context. Again, it is something you expect to happen and it is stronger than "should have graduated".
    The strongest form is "In 2 years she will have graduated". Now you're indicating that you're fairly certain this will happen.

    [edit: typos]
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi,

    - By the end of next September, she may/might/could have graduated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.
    Only may works for me here. You could perhaps make out a case for might. It would mean you don't think the thing's likely to happen.

    Could have only refers to the past. She could have graduated, but she decided to drop out.

    Must have only refers to the past. It refers to certainty and not to an obligation. She's got a BA after her name, so she must have graduated. I suppose you could say it can be a kind of future perfect - looking at a past obligation from the point of view of the future. She must have graduated by 2024 - she is obliged to graduate by 2024. This looks a but clumsy to me. There's nothing wrong with the simpler She has to graduate by 2024.

    Should have is all right. But it refers to certainly, or at least to an assumption, and not to an obligation if it refers to the future. You should have helped him, but you didn't - past obligation. We should have finished by Friday - assumption about the future.

    I prefer in two years' time to in two years.
    (From university is better than from the university.)
     
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    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Why do you use the simple present to to refer to the future? Because it is fixed? Can I use the future "will"?
    Rhitagawr was talking about expressing obligation.
    It is normal to say "She has to graduate by 2024" because the obligation exists at the time of speaking even if the obligation can only be fulfilled some time in the future.
    I suppose you could also say "She will have to graduate by 2024" with no fundamental change in meaning. For me, it does imply somehow that the actual obligation is based on an event in the future. For example: "If she takes a year off this year, she will have to <do this and that>". Here, the obligation does not exist at the time of speaking but depends on a future condition.

    But that's just my non-native opinion. Wait for other answers!
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I disagree with @rhitagawr
    All of these verbs are possible with the future and could be used in the appropriate context
    May/might/could have graduated: introduces a possibility, presumably not particularly certain. We could imagine for example that the graduation date is not fixed or is unknown.

    Should have graduated: introduces an expected outcome. For example we are confident that she will pass the degree, and that having done so she will take up a post in the company

    Must have graduated: introduces an obligation. For example if she doesn’t do so she will lose her trust fund.
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I disagree with @rhitagawr
    All of these verbs are possible with the future and could be used in the appropriate context
    May/might/could have graduated: introduces a possibility, presumably not particularly certain. We could imagine for example that the graduation date is not fixed or is unknown.

    Should have graduated: introduces an expected outcome. For example we are confident that she will pass the degree, and that having done so she will take up a post in the company

    Must have graduated: introduces an obligation. For example if she doesn’t do so she will lose her trust fund.
    I agree with you, Glasguensis. Even "would have graduated" should also work here, I guess. What do you think of the following sentence?
    By the end of next September, she would have educated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.
    To compare with the OP:
    - By the end of next September, she may/might/could have educated from the university and started working for his paternal uncle's chocolate company.
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    I agree with Glasguensis. All those modals are theoretically possible with future meanings.

    I agree with Manfy that "must" is the least likely, but I disagree with Manfy's interpretation that "In two years she must have graduated" means "something you expect to happen". The epistemic use of "must" for assumptions and expectations is possible in the past and present, but not in the future. In this context, "must" can only have a deontic meaning. As Rhitagawr and Glasguensis have explained, "must" in the future introduces an obligation (e.g., she'll lose her trust fund if she hasn't graduated by then). That said, "must have" still feels awkward; if we're talking about obligation in the future, we'd be more likely to say something like "[In order to get her trust fund], she'll need to have graduated by 2024".

    One other issue that hasn't been mentioned yet.... whose uncle are we talking about? A mystery male who's been mentioned elsewhere in the text? If it's the uncle of the woman who is the subject of the sentence, it should (of course) be "her paternal uncle".
     
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