Future Perfect Tense in English: Rules & Use

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

The future perfect tense is used to show events that will both happen and be completed in the future. This lesson will describe how to identify and use this verb tense.

The Future is Tense

In life, the future is rarely perfect, but in grammar, it can be. And if you forgive that terrible joke and stick with me, I'll show how to identify the future perfect tense and use it in your own writing.

But first a word on verb tense. Simply speaking, verb tense describes when an action is happening (and if you don't remember, a verb is an action word, which is why it is important here). In English, we typically change the form of the verb to indicate the change from present tense (happening right now) to past tense (happening in the past):

  • Sophie walks to the store.
  • Sophie walked to the store.

In the first example, the present form of ''walks'' changes to the past participle of ''walked'' as shown in the second example.

But what if Sophie hasn't done it yet. Well, in English, unlike many other languages, we have no future participle. We indicate the future with the helping verb 'will':

  • Sophie will walk to the store tomorrow.

Future Tense

The Future is Perfect

The form we just used is just the plain old future tense, so what the heck does future perfect mean? Well, future perfect tense is a special class of future tense used to describe something that will happen and be completed by a certain point in the future.

So, let's say Sophie is resolving to get her schoolwork done on time. She could tell herself:

  • I will complete all of my homework this week.

But Sophie isn't great at staying on task, so she decides to set a more specific goal:

  • I will have completed all of my homework by Friday at 5 pm, or I won't go out this weekend.

This specific time in the future when the task will be done is what makes it future perfect instead of just future. And notice the change in phrasing. Instead of ''will'' + the present participle, we now have two helping verbs: ''will have.'' And we are also using the past participle: completed.

Here's another example:

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