the runner who comes/will come in first

Discussion in 'English Only' started by akimura, May 10, 2013.

  1. akimura

    akimura Senior Member


    I have a question about which of the following sentences is correct:

    1. Can you guess the runner who will come in first?
    2. Can you guess the runner who comes in first?

    Sentence 1 is the one I found in a grammar book which claims the sentence is correct. Sentence 2 is the one I created, which I think seems rather correct, because in Collins COBUILD's ACTIVE English Grammar, it states that in defining relative clauses, you normally use the present simple, not 'will', to refer to the future. It even shows this sample sentence: There is a silver cup for the runner who finishes first.

    So which is correct, sentence 1 or sentence 2? I would appreciate any help.
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    They're both correct, but only the first has the sense you intend, ie. 'can you guess the winner of this race?'

    The second implies that there's a repetitive inevitability about the outcome, ie. 'can you guess the runner who always wins this race?'

    That sounds a little weird, but imagine you were watching your favourite film for the fifteenth time with a friend who'd not seen it before.

    You might ask your friend 'can you guess what happens' or 'can you guess who the villain is?'.

    Now imagine that there's a horse race in that film (My Fair Lady), you might ask 'can you guess which horse comes in first?'

    That's not to say that this 'There is a silver cup for the runner who finishes first' is wrong - it's just not the same as (2).
  3. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I'm not a grammarian, but I would use these tenses for the future:

    Can you guess which runner will come in first?
    The runner who comes in first will win the prize.

    I would not use your present tense in the first sentence.

    Added: Cross-posted with Beryl.
  4. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    Thank you very much! I understand much better now.

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