Remain In-Tense — Verbs 2

Hourglass 2

In my editing travels, I haven’t run across too many problems with simple future tenses.


I will play, you will play, he/she/it will play, they will play, we will play or I am going to play, you are going to play, he/she/it is going to play, we are going to play, they are going to play

I will be playing, you will be playing, he/she/it will be playing, they will be playing, we will be playing

For this one, think Mission Impossible:

“You will fly to the mid-Atlantic where you will jump from the plane into a boat which will be waiting for you. This message will self-destruct in ten seconds.”

I will have played, you will have played, he/she/it will have played, they will have played, we will have played

This is not unlike had. It’s ago in the future.

“By the time your plane gets to the mid-Atlantic, they will have served breakfast.”

By the time you get there, something will be over with.


But …

Things can get a bit tricky when we “project” ourselves into the future while considering the past. Like this:

I will have been playing, you will have been playing, he/she/it will have been playing, they will have been playing, we will have been playing

“By the time your plane gets to the mid-Atlantic, the boat will have been waiting for one hour.”

Once again, it’s an ago, but an ongoing (continuous) ago. [Note: Don’t ever smoke up when you’re trying to figure this stuff out.]

Here’s a link that will give you a recap of all the verb tenses we’ve discussed in these last two posts:


If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly. — MacBeth (Act 1, Scene 7).

MacBeth is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays, and I think one of the reasons it’s my favourite is because of this particular passage which still gives me the giggles.

Yeah. But isn’t that just obscure Shakespearean Olde English talk? Nu-uh. If I were to write it today, it would come out pretty much the same:

If it were done, then when it is done, it would be great if it were done quickly.

This is the Subjunctive tense — or Subjunctive mood as the aficionados like to call it. The following link explains the Subjunctive very well with clear examples.

They don’t teach Latin in schools much anymore and there’s the pity (as the old wives say). The study of Latin gave me a clear understanding of the Future Pluperfect Subjunctive and its ilk. I enjoyed it. Translating Latin into English was to me like a code-breaking game. It was fun. (But then again, I was a bit of a nerdette.)

Woulda, coulda, shoulda very often are incorrectly written as would of, could of, and should of — no doubt arising from the sound of the contractions would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve. The correct way to write them is: would have, could have, and should have, or, in the contracted forms. [But delightful in dialogue (for one character per book, though right?).]

I know I lead a busy life, but perhaps I should have spent more time with Bill before he took up with that woman. I would have if I could have.

  • Think of should as being guilt-inducing.
  • Think of would as being polite, or possible, or somewhat willing with a “but” that goes along with it.
  • Think of could as being able, with that same “but” attached.

All three of these are in the realm of the negative, the not real, the world of If.

If I were to take the time to write out several examples from this world of If, you might never forgive me.


Next Post — Oops! Dammit! and Other Exclamations

Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them:

… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction):

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