What Is the Future Perfect Progressive?

A. Leverkuhn

Future perfect progressive is a specific verb tense in English that combines a reference to the future with a continuous form for a verb. The future perfect progressive is one of a handful of future tenses that is important for English-language learners to understand. It corresponds to other progressive tenses that use the suffix “ing” to make verbs into a progressive or continuous form.

Future perfect progressive combines a reference to the future with a continuous form for a verb.
Future perfect progressive combines a reference to the future with a continuous form for a verb.

An example of a future perfect progressive tense statement demonstrates the elements that make this verb tense unique. An English speaker might say: “After new year’s day, I will have been working on this project for two months.” Here, listeners can identify the future perfect progressive tense by the words “will have been,” combined with the verb, “work,” in its continuous form: “working.”

This verb tense includes several main elements or components. First, the speaker or writer communicates from a future moment, in the above case, from the viewpoint of New Year’s Day, rather than from the moment that they are in when they are expressing themselves. What’s also common to future perfect progressive uses is that the future moment is contrasted to another moment, often the present moment, through the use of the continuous or progressive.

It’s important to know that in most uses of the future perfect progressive, it’s not clear, from the context of the sentence, what the present moment is for the speaker or writer. What is clear is that the speaker or writer is contrasting a future moment to another moment that may be in the future, present or past. In the above example, that moment is established as two months before New Year’s Day, or in other words, at the end of October. Despite this context, it is unclear to the reader or listener whether the speaker’s statement comes before, after or at this moment.

Another characteristic of future perfect progressive is that many statements using this verb tense do not indicate a future stopping point for the verb in question. Again, in the above example, the speaker does not make clear that the verb, in this case “working,” will cease at any given time. The statement is more a reference to a chronological benchmark relative to when the action began. The ambiguities of this verb tense are part of what make it confusing to language learners; through sketching out a time line and diagramming the chronological pointers of this tense, instructors can often explain its nature effectively.

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