(I admit a Romance bias in asking this question, perhaps expressing what I'm looking for is quite common in other families)

After answering a question recently on the Spanish SE on tense sequencing, I got to wondering. Many languages make frequent use of a pluperfect, either via direct formation or auxiliar verbs.

While I suppose many languages could form it by combining two ways of talking about the future (English: "I will be going to V.", Asturian: "Diré V."), they tend not to be used that often, rather being substituted by the standard future forms supplemented with adverbs to indicate the sequencing.

Are there any languages/language families that dictate future tense sequencing as strictly as past tense sequencing such that they either require or regularly use a plufuture?

Edit: Some overly simple examples based on the verb swim , but I think it will make sense even if there's a few nits that could be picked:

First, the three basic time frames (past, present, future)

  • David swam, John swims, and Mary will swim.
  • David nadou, João nada e Maria nadará.

But, if we shift the point of reference to the past, the verb forms all shift.

  • Yesterday David had (already) swum, John swam, and Mary would swim.
  • Ontem David (já) nadara, João nadou e Maria nadaria.

But, let's say instead of shifting the reference backwards, we shift forward:

  • Tomorrow David will have swum, John will swim, and (then) Mary will swim.
  • Amanhã David haverá nadado, João nadará e (depois) Maria nadará.

Notice that expressing John and Mary's swimming use the same verb constructions. The only common way to show that Mary's future swimming comes after John's future swimming is to use an adverb, although theoretically I suppose the following would be possible:

  • Tomorrow David will have swum, John will swim, and Mary will go to swim.
  • Amanhã David haverá nadado, João nadará e María ?irá nadar.

Except that the meaning of go here for me curiously shifts from its future sense meaning to the movement sense, causing to to take its "for the purpose of". I'm not 100% certain of the grammaticality of the Portuguese one, although it's Spanish counterpart irá a nadar would have the same interpretation as the English.

So what I'm looking for would be a language where, in order to properly express the future-shifted version, the John and Mary's will swim would be constructed differently in an effectively obligatory nature.

  • The pluperfect combines the past and perfect. A plufuture would combine the future and perfect. So are you asking if there are any languages that have grammaticalised this combination? – curiousdannii Oct 12 '14 at 23:44
  • @curiousdannii Doesn't "pluperfect" mean, literally, "more than perfect", that is, the past of the past? So to me, plufuture would be "more than future", or the future of the future. So in a future narration, when one needs to refer to an even further future event. – user0721090601 Oct 12 '14 at 23:55
  • Has anyone else ever used the term 'plufuture'? If not I guess you can make up the term yourself. But now it sounds like you're asking about metrical tense, rather than a future parallel to the pluperfect. – curiousdannii Oct 13 '14 at 0:18
  • @curiousdannii I don't think anyone has. Not sure what else to call it. Maybe ultrafuture would work better for being beyond the future. I'll try to touch up with the question soon with some examples that might explain better. – user0721090601 Oct 13 '14 at 0:21
  • Plusquamperfectum means 'yet more perfect'; in practice, a past of a past. So Plusquamfuturum would have to mean a future of a future -- something that happens in the distant future compared to closer future. It seems rare enough to have such specificity with the future, which is after all wont to dissolve into irrealis or subjunctive at the slightest opportunity. I have heard of close/distant past tenses, but I don't know about close/distant future tense. – jlawler Oct 13 '14 at 2:32

In Reichenbach's scheme of eventuality, reference point and speech point, the "future of the future" describes where the eventuality is after the reference point, which is after the speech point (S - R - E). This "posterior future" makes the referred event the "act of preparation" rather than the act or event itself.

The classic example is the Latin abiturus ero, which in English is (idiomatically) translated as "I shall be one of those who will leave". I've also seen the translation "I shall be going to leave", which is a little more compact but feels a lot less natural. In some English grammar textbooks this is named the "future prospective", but I agree that this (currently!) looks and feels like a purpose clause.

I've seen statements that the "future of the future" or "posterior future" is "not attested in natural languages". I personally think it's just hard to disentangle them from other semantic colourings, much as all future tense-based forms are.

Kannada reportedly has an auxiliary verb construction with +posterior and +future, and the third person neuter form is apparently quite frequent. But it has an obligatory force to its meaning: one needs to go.


German has two future tenses (called 'Futur I and II' in popular grammars), and if they are used together, this comes close to what you're asking for:

German: Wenn ich gegessen haben werde, werde ich satt sein.

Gloss: When I eaten-past-partcpl have will, will I not-hungry be.

Tenses: ............. Futur II ..............................Futur I

English: When I will have eaten, I will not be hungry any more.

However, German Futur II does not express an action taking place after the action expressed by Futur I. Instead, Futur II expresses an action taking place in the future, but before another action expressed by Futur I. In this respect it is similar to the pluperfect, which expresses an action that took place before another action expressed by the perfect/past tense. But the relation between Futur II and Futur I is not a mirror-image of the relation between pluperfect and perfect.

Also note that Futur I is the unmarked tense here. Used on its own, it just refers to an action taking place in the future.

  • 1
    I think the Futur II would be known as a future perfect in most other languages' terminologies with Futur I as a simple future, no? But maybe it has some different uses... if you had a sentence "I run.FUT2 tomorrow", does my run necessarily happen tomorrow, or could it happen tonight as well? – user0721090601 Oct 13 '14 at 16:35
  • 1
    And of course, just as in English, these are not really tenses, but constructions with auxiliary verbs. German has only two actual tenses, like other Germanic languages. These constructions get called "tenses" in traditional grammars because of the Latin influence. And it makes more sense to do so in German, which actually inflects its verbs and nouns, than in English, where constructions have multipled while inflection has mostly died. – jlawler Oct 13 '14 at 17:12
  • @guifa I would only find "I run.FUT2 tomorrow" acceptable, if your run were still to happen today. – robert Oct 13 '14 at 17:21

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