the future perfect continuous - [obsolete tense?]

Ukrainito

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
Dear friends,

Is THE FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE obsolescent (not to say obsolete)?

What I mean is, I have been teaching English as a second language for a quadrillion years now—yes, I’m that old:)—to Russian-/Ukrainian-speaking students. English verbal tenses are an incredibly tough subject for my students to even fathom, and I have always spent quite a bit of time explaining those tenses. When it comes to “the most feared 12-th tense”—i.e. THE FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS—I simply tell my students to relax and not to worry about yet another set of grammar tests, all because the above tense, though theoretically possible, is hardly ever used in practice.

Now go ahead and shoot me down if you like, but in all the years I have spent working with English-speaking people (mostly Americans), reading tons of books, texts and grammar tests NOT ONCE did I run into THE FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS used in reality, not in theoretical examples.

I do understand and “feel” in what situations it could be used, but can you remember the last time you ACTUALLY told someone something like “Hey, John, how long will you have been working here by the end of the month?”

Comments are welcome and highly appreciated.
 
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  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Now go ahead and shoot me down if you like, but in all the years I have spent working with English-speaking people (mostly Americans), reading tons of books, texts and grammar tests NOT ONCE did I run into THE FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS used in reality, not in theoretical examples.
    You'll have been reading the wrong books, Ukrainito;)

    That's an example of it being used to indicate a supposition.

    'Obsolete'? ~ no, not at all. 'Rare'? ~ almost certainly, but that's nothing to do with the grammar of it, just that the circumstances don't often arise in which it's needed.

    Your example in bold is a really good one ~ I can certainly imagine myself saying that:thumbsup:
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To answer your question directly: No, I can't remember the last time I used this tense - but that's because I don't make a mental note of the tenses I use. If I were to say to myself "Watch out for the next time you use the future perfect continuous and let Ukrainito know when it happens", it might make my speech unnatural. This raises the question "Which tense will your students use if they don't possess the future perfect continuous?"
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That's the problem with teaching English as if it had a whole battery of tenses: you get to a rare combination like this and think, if this is a tense, where is it? But it's much better to regard English as having two morphological tenses, the ones that affect word forms of the first verb in a series, and a number of interlocking methods for adding properties by adding verbs: the perfect construction, the progressive construction, the passive construction, and the construction with the half-dozen modal verbs (including 'will'). In theory, all of these can be used at once, just as in theory a Turkish or Inuktitut speaker could use one of those gigantic morphological complexes they use in descriptions to illustrate the possibilities - or a German-speaker could use a compound of five nouns joined together. In practice, the opportunity to combine them doesn't come up.

    It's neither obsolete nor obsolescent, for what it's worth: it's not less used now than it ever was, it's just never been a possible combination that had any reason to occur in practice.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes, I was surprised by etb's "never", too:rolleyes:.

    It's certainly used, Ukrainito: it's just not common, for the reason ewie gives.

    Here are are couple of "real world" examples from Google Books:

    Walking in Cumbria's Eden Valley: 30 Routes Between Source and Sea - Page 82
    books.google.co.uk
    Vivienne Crow
    - 2011 - 192 pages - Preview
    You will have been walking on a raised embankment for quite some time, and the ladder stile is a few metres to the left of it, so it is easy to miss it. Having crossed the stile, keep close to the river bank until you reach the road.

    Inside the primary school

    books.google.co.uk
    John Blackie - 1975 - 148 pages - Snippet view
    The children will have been speaking and hearing words since they were a year old and, by the time they come to school they can usually converse quite fluently and use, (though estimates vary) on the average, about 2000 different words.
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Hm, my 'never been a possible combination that had any reason to occur in practice' seems to suggest 'never been a possible combination', which is not what I meant. In practice, you don't see it, and that's always been the case. My 'in practice' is not meant to imply 'never'.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It doesn't look odd, it doesn't sound odd, and it appears in corpora: 23 in BNC, 16 in COCA.
    Those aren't huge numbers, but then the appropriate context for this verb form doesn't arise often.

    BNC - British National Corpus
    COCA - Corpus of Contemporary American English
     

    Ukrainito

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Thank you, guys.

    I really appreciate your taking your time to clarify the situation. However, all the comments (so far) have come from speakers of British English. So I would really love to read what Americans/Canadians have to say on the subject.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hm, my 'never been a possible combination that had any reason to occur in practice' seems to suggest 'never been a possible combination', which is not what I meant. In practice, you don't see it, and that's always been the case. My 'in practice' is not meant to imply 'never'.
    Do you think if we all sit here quietly and patiently, ETB will come back and explain what he means by this ... ?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    One common use of it is in speaking about the duration of something. This can come up in casual conversation.

    "This May I will have been working here fifteen years. I can't believe it!"
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If this goes on much longer, I will have had it up to here!
    That's another form that is not "obsolete" but also not used very often because the need to express this "timeframe" is rare.
    (I don't even know what it is - furture pluperfect?). Some things become obsolete because they are replaced by newer ways of saying the same thing. Here, it is just a rare thing to want to express, but there's no other way to say it!
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If this goes on much longer, I will have had it up to here!...
    :D:thumbsup:

    I've both used it and heard it on many occasions. It seems normal. Examples are easy to think of, e.g.

    In a week's time the government will have been in power for three years and they still haven't fulfilled their manifesto promises.

    I expect you'll have realised by now that this thread is getting ridiculous.
     
    Panjandrum: You do not say what was searched. Did you actually manage to tell it to find all future perfect progressive uses?

    I agree with those who say it's rare; I have no idea if that's declining. On the other hand, Loob's examples and others show that
    it doesn't stick out like a sore grammatical thumb when used in the right context.

    I agree with Ukrainito, the OP, that telling learners not to worry about it, is good advice. I can think of hundreds of more important issues and usages. As suggested by what Entangled said, they will obviously understand the rare case if they know the building blocks.


    It doesn't look odd, it doesn't sound odd, and it appears in corpora: 23 in BNC, 16 in COCA.
    Those aren't huge numbers, but then the appropriate context for this verb form doesn't arise often.

    BNC - British National Corpus
    COCA - Corpus of Contemporary American English
     

    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    I admit that this tense is not used very often, but, unfortunately, if you're supposed to take a test as a non native speaker, these seemingly bizarre elements of grammar are typically a must, so learning as much as possible about them seems to be a pretty good idea.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I admit that this tense is not used very often, but, unfortunately, if you're supposed to take a test as a non native speaker, these seemingly bizarre elements of grammar are typically a must, so learning as much as possible about them seems to be a pretty good idea.
    They are no more bizarre than any other grammatical construction. Any native speaker would understand them immediately in the right context - even the most uneducated speakers.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Panjandrum: You do not say what was searched. Did you actually manage to tell it to find all future perfect progressive uses?
    That's quite easy to do with the BNC and the COCA, benny;). I've just repeated panj's search: I also get 23 for the BNC though, interestingly, I get 18 rather than 16 for the (larger) COCA.



    (I'm intrigued: why did you resuscitate this two-year-old thread, Biffo?)
     
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    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    Well, yes, in the right context it's really easy, but it's next-to-impossible for native speakers to imagine how difficult this is for speakers of three-tense languages :) The problem is that it is quite easy to avoid using future perfect continuous if you know how and to do that you must know the "mechanics". Hard to explain, but I'll try to make it easier giving a simple example "translated" literally by a non native speaker you can often hear things like: Next year I will work here for five years. - no perfect aspect, no continuous aspect as slavic languages simply do NOT have when it's a lot easier to say I've been working here for five years. However, the future perfect continuous can't be avoided if you use a structure where it is "required". To be honest, I've encountered it in written English more often than in spoken English, but saying that it's obsolete and/or not used anymore is, in my opinion, not correct.
     

    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    Thank you Biffo for your post. It illustrates my point quite clearly: if the tense is not used where required, the resulting sentence: a) means something different b) is ungrammatical and/or nonsensical. I'm sorry that I butted in like this, but although unlike the OP I have not taught English for a gazillion years, only trying to teach it for some meager 30+, I sort know some of the problems people who are born in a country where a slavic language is spoken have. The tense, in my humble opinion still exists, is still used, may not be common, but to avoid using it you must know the rules. I know that natives do not think about grammar, tenses, articles etc. when speaking, they usually don't even know the technical terms, but the minute they want to say a sentence requiring the future perfect continuous tense, they will use it and won't even blink regardless of their education and background.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    This structure is both useful (nay, sometimes essential) and relatively common. Both versions of: "Next January I will have been living/will have lived in France for 25 years" come equally easily to my tongue. This is not true of, for example, the subjunctive in: "I suggest the steak be cooked a little less next time".
     

    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    Thank you Keith for your contribution. "Sometimes essential" is a very good description :) With subjunctive it's a bit different, I believe - amount of formality and then definitely BE vs AE where it seems to be still common. Actually when I read old books, I was really surprised where the subjunctive was used even in BE.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I'm an AmE speaker and I concur with what the BrE speakers are saying. This doesn't arise too often in practice but it's perfectly okay, doesn't sound obsolete or rare, is easily understood and although I don't keep any mental accounting of what tenses I use, I would not be surprised to find that I use it occasionally.
     
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