2ème Bac. 2010 - 2014
This year we are studying perfect tenses especially the past perfect and the future perfect. And I noticed that the phrase “by the time” is used very so often with both tenses and I can’t say if it requires the past perfect or the future perfect?! for example the teacher asked us to put the verbs between brackets in these two sentences in the correct form. Here they are
Now can you put the verbs between brackets in the correct form?
No, I can’t. But I guess she wants you to discover the difference in use of the 'horrible' “by the time”.
I see! These sentences are used after a party is over. Let’s try to do it together, OK?!
OK, let’s. First the sentences give the impression that they are alike! There should be a trick somewhere. Wait, wait! I guess I found the trick! Look at the verb in the “by the time” clause in both sentences.
Let me see! “come …. came”. YES! That’s the secret. In the first sentence, the verb is (come) in the present and in the second; it is (came) in the past. There surely is an effect on the verb (clean) between brackets. What do you think?
I think that the tense of the verb in the “by the time” clause counts a lot to find out if the verb in the main clause should be in the past perfect or the future perfect.
Exactly! When the verb in the “by the time” clause is in the present, I guess the verb in the main clause: (clean) in this case, should be in the future perfect because the action (cleaning) will have finished by the time the parents come. Yes, yes! It sounds logical.
Yes, I agree! To follow your logic, whenever the verb in the “by the time” clause is in the present we should use the Future Perfect, and whenever the verb in the “by the time” clause is in the past, we should use the Past Perfect.
Can you repeat that please?
Well! Let me illustrate it this way:
|By the time||+||present||=>||future perfect|
|By the time||+||past||=>||past perfect|
I get it. Now let’s do the exercise and see if the teacher would accept our point of view.
The Bac. Students are studying the perfect tenses, particularly the past perfect and the future perfect, hence the frequent use of the phrase “by the time”.
Do not read this!
“By the time” is used to indicate the end of an action in a time period, to imagine or to predict the relative timing of two activities or events in the past, present or future. In other words, “by the time” is used to refer to the second action of two completed actions either in the past or in the present. This creates confusion for most students because this very phrase is used to introduce clauses which show that at the end of a certain action, another action is still going on or completed. When we use “by the time” with a completed action either in the past or present, the students are required to identify the appropriate perfect tense to use subsequently.
Most Baccalaureate students find it very hard to distinguish the perfect tense (past or future) to use when the “by the time” phrase is used. But this is not really tough to find out if we know the secret like the students 1 & 2 did earlier.
In order to put an end to the students’ disorientation about this, I’ll try to unveil the secret in a very down-to-earth way.
Compare between these two sentences and try to detect the secret
1. The verb in the “by the time” clause here is in the present: (return). Therefore, the tense used in the other clauses should be in the future perfect. (will have finished).
2. The verb here is the simple past (returned). Therefore the tense used in the other clauses should be in the past perfect. (had finished)
As a conclusion whenever the verb in the “by the time” clause is in the present, the verb in the other clause is in the future perfect.
Likewise whenever the verb in the “by the time” clause is in the past, the verb in the other clause is in the past perfect.
Both situations describe an action, that at a given end-point action (in the present or past), is completed. In other words:
They had already finished cleaning the house by the time we arrived.
Put the verbs between brackets in the correct form