There are two superficially similar constructions in English, which have quite different implied meanings:

You will have seen the news that the company is furloughing 15% of its employees, but I don't think the department needs to worry.

(The speaker is signalling her expectation that her audience has already seen the news.)

By the time the clock strikes three, you will have seen three ghosts.

(The speaker is making a prediction about future events.)

The second construction is the future perfect; is there a different name for the first construction? I would also be interested to hear whether other languages have a similar construction; based on a quick internet search, it seems it's possible but rare in Danish.

And of course the most famous example of first construction must surely be "You'll have had your tea"!

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    The first is also a future perfect, just with a specific sense. The future perfect does exist in Danish, but it is not used in this sense; other constructions are used instead. Spanish does use the future (including future perfect) in the sense of expected probability (“habrán visto las noticias que…” seems quite likely to me, though I’m not a native speaker by any means). May 16 '20 at 10:50
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: With regards to Danish: googling for "I vil have set" comes up with some sentences such as, "Danmark er med i NATO, så I vil have set en del af det efterretningsmateriale, der er kommet gennem NATO-systemet". Are you saying that this is an incorrect usage? (I speak some Danish but far from native speaker level.)
    – Josh Hunt
    May 16 '20 at 15:09
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    Hmm… perhaps not quite incorrect, but it sounds like an Anglicism to me in many contexts. I think the difference is that the Danish version implies more certainty than the English. The example you quote here is borderline to me, but for the one in the question, the future sounds wrong, and in non-perfect uses with the same sense of probability (“It’s nearly two; he’ll be on his way home now”), a future construction is just not possible at all in Danish. So I’d say it’s possible in some such cases, but only some. May 16 '20 at 15:16

Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 209-210) address this matter directly. They argue that, contrary to what one finds in traditional grammars, there are only two tenses in English, past and present/future. Crucially, the modal verb will should not be construed as a marker of future tense, but rather it is a marker of modality. They even state that will can denote past occurrences when used together with perfect aspect. The example they give is next:

(1) He will have left already.

This sentence denotes a past occurrence, and in this regard, it aligns with the sentence in the question, i.e. You will have seen the news, which also denotes a past occurrence (with present relevance). The past occurrence is epistemically flavored, though, that is, it is not as certain as the corresponding simple past tense version of the sentences, i.e. He left already, You saw the news.

German has an analogous construction with the modal verb werden 'will', e.g.

(2) Da wird sich seine Mutter gefreut haben. 'His mother will have been pleased.'

My Dudengrammatik (1984: 152) states that the tense in such cases is Futur II 'future perfect'. But it states that in this use, the Futur II actually has past time reference.

I therefore predict that grammars vary concerning the terminology they use to denote the construction. Some grammars likely state that the construction is indeed a manifestation of future perfect tense, but they then probably hedge the classification by stating that this use of the future perfect can also denote a past occurrence. Personally, I would favor Huddleston & Pullum's assessment of the construction, since their grammar is comprehensive and excellent in many ways.

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    I don't think your example in (1) denotes a past. Nor does 'you will have seen the news'. These examples are incompatible with past adverbs: *He will have left yesterday/last week/ also *you'll have seen the news yesterday. Even if I try to grasp them as grammatical they sound weird and degraded. (I might be wrong though, I'm not a native speaker).
    – Tsutsu
    May 16 '20 at 17:03
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    Wird comes from werden "become", not wollen. But otherwise you're right about the construction: in colloquial German, the future tense, including future II, is in general very often used in the modal sense you describe. Cf. er wird im Kino sein (future, but "he probably is in the cinema") vs. er geht heute ins Kino (present, "he is going/will go to the cinema today"). May 16 '20 at 17:49
  • @Tsutsu Those adverbs are generally incompatible with non-past-tense forms, regardless of aspect. There is no doubt that “you have seen the news” describes a past occurrence (i.e., the action of the main verb, the act of seeing, was in the past), but “*you have seen the news yesterday” is also ungrammatical. “You’ll have seen the news” in this sense likewise describes an act of seeing which is in the past. May 16 '20 at 18:11
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    @Tsutsu I think it's just a question of nomenclature. I'd say it describes a present state in which some action has been completed - so the action itself is necesarily in the past. I can think of contexts where he will have left yesterday works, but they may be equivalent to the narrative present perfect. The future perfect construction doesn't seem to be totally parasitic on the pp though - both I expect you saw him leave and I expect you've seen him leave can be expressed by You'll have seem him leave. With that in mind the epistemological fp may be possible where the pp is not.
    – rchivers
    May 16 '20 at 18:46
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    +1 for repeating that there is no such thing as a future tense in English.
    – Colin Fine
    May 16 '20 at 20:32

"Will" in the first sentence denotes epistemic modality, that is the degree of commitment of the speaker towards what s/he is asserting ("you have probably seen that..."). Now, this use of "will" is quite restrained and rare in English vs. other auxiliaries such as "must" or "might": "I see his car. He might/must/will?? be back". That is, "will" is not thoroughly grammaticalised as an epistemic auxiliary in Eglish differently from other languages such as German (see above).

The second example, instead, relates to a future perfect which presents an event as having already taken place in the future without any certainty as to whether it will take place. This is obviously a huge, but not transparent conceptual clash since we don't analyse constructions, but acquire and replicate them.

The only feature the two examples share is that of "irrealis", i.e. of something that cannot be factually assessed.

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