A verb’s tense determines when the action takes place. Some of the six tenses of English and Latin are complex, such as the past perfect and Future Perfect. These tenses indicate an action that have or will take place before another action and often either requires two action words in a sentence or leaving the second action as implicitly assumed by the reader or listener. This construction causes some confusion among Latin students who do not have a solid foundation in their own native language.
The Future Perfect tense is used to express an action in the future that will take place before a second action that is expected to take place even further into the future. This concept is complex and requires some thought to master in any language. Native English speakers find it particularly difficult to understand the future perfect tense because unlike English, no auxiliary words clue the student in to the verb’s tense or use in a sentence.
The English Future Perfect Tense
The Future Perfect tense is formed using auxiliary words paired up with the past participle form of the verb. The words “will have” or “shall have” immediately give away the Future Perfect tense. For example:
I shall have seen the movie by Tuesday.
You will have graduated by June.
He will have visited the museum by the time it closes.
Notice that the action of the Future Perfect tense occurs before some other action or event. In the first example it is clear that the subject (I) will see the movie before Tuesday arrives. Again, the Future Perfect tense indicates an action that will happen before something else.
Whether to use “will have” or “shall have” is a matter of opinion. Some believe that “shall” is to be used with the first person only and that “will” is used with the second and third person, as the examples above follow. However, the word “shall” is falling into disuse, especially in American English. Since both “shall” and “will” can be shortened to “’ll”, it is possible to skip over this debate and just use the shortened form in all cases, as in:
By Tuesday, I’ll have seen the movie.
By June, you’ll have graduated.
By the time it closes, he’ll have visited the museum.
The Latin Future Perfect Tense
The Future Perfect functions identically in English and Latin. However, Latin uses no auxiliary words to help the reader or listener identify the tense. Only a clear understanding of inflections will identify any of the six tenses.
The Latin Future Perfect Active Indicative is formed by taking the perfect stem from the third principal part and adding the future forms of the word esse. For example,
Ambulavero (I will have walked)
Portaveris (You will have carried)
Amaverit (He will have loved)
The use of the Future Perfect in a Latin sentence is identical to all of the other tenses. Some examples include:
Caesar in agro ambulaverit (Caesar will have walked in the field)
Caesar inimicum superaverit (Caesar will have defeated the enemy)
Caesar virum monuerit (Caesar will have warned the man)
Notice that use of the Future Perfect does not necessitate the explicit mention of the action or event further into the future in the same sentence. This action or event can be in a previous or subsequent sentence or it may be omitted all together, leaving it up to the reader or listener to know what was implied.
The Future Perfect tense is not as common as other tenses but it does have its usefulness in explaining two separate actions or events in which one will occur before the other. Whereas English uses auxiliary words to specify use of the tense, Latin relies completely on inflections. Beginning Latin students are sometimes instructed to draw a time line to help in identifying when the two actions take place. Without knowledge about how English tenses function, Latin tenses become that much more difficult for the student.
This post is part of the series: A Comparison of Latin and English Verb Tenses
Both English and Latin have six verb tenses. However, their employment in each language differs slightly. These differences must be understood by Latin students to properly translate from one language to the other.