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July 9, 2008 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Grammar Filter: what is the English equivalent to the "Double Future Tense"?

For a few years, I've had a work computer with a name generated by the IT department's random computer name generator, called "doublefuture". When I ssh into my boxes, I like to have a quote relevant to the machine name. For my "doublefuture" box, I did a bit of searching and found this:

"The Double Future Tense signifies that, at a future time spoken of, the action will still be Future."

-- excerpted from "Cherokee Tenses", Cherokee Phoenix and Indians' Advocate, January 27, 1829

Today, suddenly, I found myself trying to figure out if such a tense exists in the English language, and I'm coming up short. I'm also curious a bit about other languages as well, but as I only speak English, that's my primary question.
posted by davejay to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"will be going to"? something like that is as close as I can get if I try to express it in English.
posted by Lady Li at 3:37 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

To the best of my knowledge, in English such a thing just falls under "future" tense.

"When the 2012 election rolls around, I will have two weeks to finish radiation-proofing my cave." Something like that?
posted by Nattie at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2008

I don't know what experience you have with foreign languages (probably none since you only speak English), but in my limited experience I've found that there are a lot of tenses that English simply doesn't have, and can therefore be rendered in English as an idea, but not a strict rule. In this case, I'm thinking it would be something like that includes several words such as will, after, still, etc. I'm thinking something like "He will run after he finishes cooking." Specify a time and show that the action will happen after it - you could almost use your quote as a template, substituting "future time spoken of" and "action" for whatever it is you are actually talking about.
posted by niles at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: This link says English does not have double future tense, and that you can convey the same meaning with future tense.
posted by Nattie at 3:41 PM on July 9, 2008

Looking at this graph of English tenses, none seem right, so unless a linguist springs a tense not mentioned there I don't think one exists.

I think you could express it by a negative Future Perfect: If "the ice caps melting" is the event that hasn't yet happened in the future, then: "The Ice Caps will not have melted by the time everyone in the world owns eight cars." (totally random example.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2008

There's no tense as such, but what about "will be yet" and then the action's infinitive form?

e.g., "Even following the investigation, his resignation will be yet to come."

The fact that that sentence is so awkward indicates that we speakers of English, lacking a compact verb tense to capture that meaning, would work around it completely in a way that's appropriate in the context (here, something like "He will surely resign, but only some time after the investigation.") I'm probably displaying an undergrad's misunderstanding of Sapir-Whorf (or at least such a misspelling of it), but what I'm trying to say is, we lack the language to easily think in those terms, so we do it in other ways.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 3:54 PM on July 9, 2008

Along the lines of SaT and e_c, I'd used a construction of the kind "will not yet have"

100 years from now the Cubs will not yet have won another World Series.
1,000 years in the future the Sun will not yet have gone nova.

This construction gets across the point that it won't happen by or at the time in question and that if it does happen, it will be at some later point.
posted by oddman at 5:08 PM on July 9, 2008

davejay, it's in your post: "will still"
posted by oddovid at 6:28 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all, esp. Nattie for the documentation.
posted by davejay at 7:00 PM on July 9, 2008

If you want more background on English and the future tense, there is a fascinating section on it in Bauschatz's _The Well and the Tree_.

Basically, there is no perfect future tense in Modern English (or Anglo Saxon or Old Norse or other Germanic languages) because in the pre-Christian Germanic conception of time, you were standing in the present (you can see it, but perhaps not well as it is too close), looking into the past (which you can see clearly because it has happened) with the future hidden behind you, where you can't see. So, those languages originally had a present perfect and a past perfect, but required helping verbs for future tenses, as does Modern English.

But, it is all much more fascinating than that. I'm no linguist, and can't do justice to the book.
posted by QIbHom at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2008

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