The Future Perfect Tense

The future perfect tense is formed by using will have + past participle.

The past participle form of a regular verb ends with -ed (danced, cooked, listened). The past perfect form of irregular verbs can be found in the third column of an irregular verbs list (see – saw – seen). Use will have for all subjects.

Past perfect:
I will have seen
You will have seen
He/she/it will have seen
We will have seen

They will have seen

The future perfect tense is used to express an action that is not done yet but will be done by a certain point in time in the future. The future perfect action will be completed any time before that point. You can think of that future point as a kind of deadline.

The future point can be expressed by using a time phrase, such as by 9:00, by next summer, by the year 2050, etc. For example:
  • By next summer, I will have saved enough money to buy a new car.
    • In other words, I haven’t saved enough money yet, but by next summer (or sooner) I will have enough money.
  • We will have arrived in Costa Rica by this time tomorrow.
    • If it is now 2:00 on Monday, we will arrive before 2:00 on Tuesday.
The future point can also be expressed as another action. In this case, we usually say “by the time + subject + simple present verb”. For example:
  • By the time Julie turns 30, she will have finished her doctorate degree.
    • Julie hasn’t finished her degree yet, but she will be finished any time before her 30th birthday.
  • By the time I reach the airport, the plane will have already left.
    • The plane will leave sometime before I reach the airport. As you can see from this example, the adverb ‘already’ can be placed between have and the past participle. This helps to emphasize the idea that there is a gap between the two actions and that I will be too late for the plane.
Using the future perfect in the negative
Although this is not common, you can form the negative by using will not or won’t:
  • I’m worried that I won’t have saved enough money to buy the car by next summer.
Asking a question in the future perfect
Invert the subject and the modal verb will:
  • Will you have saved enough money by next summer?
  • Will Julie have finished her doctorate degree by the time she turns 30?
Students often ask:
Is the future perfect common? Answer: It is not very common. It may be useful to understand the future perfect tense in case you encounter it, but many people use other ways to express the same idea. For example:
  • Future perfect: By next summer, I will have saved enough money to buy a new car.
    • Alternative: By next summer, I will have enough money to buy a new car.
  • Future perfect: By the time Julie turns 30, she will have finished her doctorate degree.
    • Alternative: Julie will graduate sometime before she turns 30.
Practice: How do you think the world will have changed by the year 3000? Remember that these changes can happen any time before the year 3000, so we can use the future perfect to express those changes. For example:
  • By the year 3000, scientists will have created a medicine that allows people to live for 200 years.
  • By the year 3000, robots will have taken control of the planet!