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In one of my classes, a participant showed us one of these traditional, never going to go away lists of verb structure combinations sold to students of English as ‘all the tenses of English’. Daunting. I have written about this in more detail on my page ‘The English Verb Structure Circle’.
The internet is full of pages that list these structures. (Some) English course books and grammar reference books present these kinds of lists too. I find them little helpful as they lack insight into the regularity of the English verb structure system. Besides the two ‘simple’ forms, they are lists of all possible combinations of the auxiliaries BE and HAVE plus participles, and modal auxiliaries plus participles. The two modes (factuality and modality) are not clearly differentiated from each other. Instead, constructions with WILL, for instance, are singled out and named as future tense of English.
Lists of this kind suggest all strucutures are of equal significance in language use and need to be learned accordingly. (No wonder people hate ‘grammar’ way into adulthood)
Additionally, they focus very strongly on linear time (past, present, future) as basic semantic explanation of the different forms and aspects. (For references and a more detailed discussion, go to my original page on the subject, link above)
The future perfect continuous, the titular structure of this post, combines WILL (one of the eight modal auxiliaries: will, would, can, could, should (shall), must, might and may) with the perfect and continuous aspects, rendering one of the longest possible combinations of the English verb structure system. It is also described as WILL + perfect continuous infinitive: after WILL comes HAVE in infinitive form, then BE in ‘past’ participle form and the main verb in ‘present’ participle form rendering …HAVE BEEN doING.
Examples could be:
This time next year, we will have been doing something. Come again?
I find it difficult to come up with any halfway realistic example this – definitely possible verb construction – could express. I will try harder.
This time next year, we will have been working on our new digital system for three years. Can you imagine?
Okay, another try:
Next week, we will have been working on our new digital system for three years (and are still not finished).
Well, possible. And maybe even a topic of conversation at workplaces. It might express that we are commemorating the start of our project, which, by next week, will have started almost three years ago. (Or: …will have had started? This can be confusing even to a native speaker of English, a former student of linguistics with a master’s degree at that, top grade.)
Instead of commemorating of course, we could be complaining that, having already started three years ago (by next week, not to forget), we are still not finished.
This year September marks a personal anniversary: I will have been playing tennis for 10 years.
Yeah, okay, why not?
Just for fun: what is the longest possible verb structure combination?
Tomorrow, we will have had been having a lot of fun with constructing the longest possible English verb structure yesterday?