I don’t normally repost things from Language Log, figuring that most Hat readers also check the Log, but this is so bizarre to me I have to bring it to the attention of those who don’t. Lori Levin writes: “Some of my students say ‘will have had gone’ sounds completely normal to them, and some won’t accept it at all.” Mark Liberman, who posted it, adds some examples from the web:

I’m hoping someone will have had gone through a similar situation and will have some good words of advice for you.
A very large percentage of my viewers reading this will have had gone through an experience where they had to go through sending in mail in rebates to get a substantial discount.
If not for your witty remarks i will have had gone insane

Et cetera. This, for me, is far worse than “I’m done work”; it sounds like some bizarre parody of English verbal constructions. And yet for some substantial number of English speakers, it’s perfectly normal. In the comments to the Log post, linguist Andrew Carnie (aka Aindriú Ó Cearnaigh, Anndra Mac a’ Chearnaigh) says:

Dan Siddiqi, Maria Biezma and I have been working on the non-standard had+have construction recently. Dan and I are both native speakers of dialects with this construction. Dan and I have a paper appearing in the next issue of Snippets. We argue there that the syntax and morphology of the first “have” shows that it behaves entirely like a modal. Our work with Maria is currently on going so I don’t want to give away the punch line, but we’re investigating the semantics of this construction and how it differs from other counterfactuals, in particular about the semantic contributions of the second “have” which seem to go above and beyond those of mere aspect. In particular, there are some very strange, but surprisingly consistent, ways in which this construction behaves with respect to presuppositional cancellation.

As usual, my questions are: Do any of you find this construction acceptable? Do you use it yourself?


  1. As long as I don’t think about this construction too hard (like while reading this post), it sounds fine to my ears. I don’t know if I’ve ever said it myself though. Hmmm.

  2. Puts me in mind of the extra tenses mentioned in one of The Hitchhiker’s Guide books (necessitated by time travel).

  3. Never heard of it (until yesterday): never used it. But I think “I’m done work” is more nonstandard.

  4. It sounds very wrong to the prescriptionist side of my brain, and I would never say it. Still I recognize it as something native American English speakers would say, although I would assume the speaker to be of the younger persuasion and/or to be someone without access to a high quality liberal arts education.
    “I’m done work”, of course, is perfectly standard.

  5. Sounds very much like characters in the Pogo cartoons (my sister just gave me vol. 1 of a projected 12). It’s not unusual for everyday locutions to originate in cartoons, movies and advertisements, or in something said on TV.
    This happens in Germany as well, of course. It’s bound to make it difficult for language learners to understand the man on the street – at least in snappy Western societies. I would expect that this ephemeral linguistic zinginess is directly correlated with the availability of mass media, but I don’t know it for sure.

  6. My tongue doesn’t outright rebel at saying it (unlike, say, He lives there any more or England are defeated regularly or I, Salathiel, who am also Ezra): /aɪˈwɪləvəd/. But my poor monkey brain can make no sense of it.
    I’m reminded here of Peter Trudgill’s article “Standard English: what it isn’t”, with its list of grammatical idiosyncrasies of Standard English (relative, that is, to other dialects). Here’s a precis:
    1. Standard English fails to distinguish between the forms of the auxiliary forms of the verb do and its main verb forms.
    2. Standard English has an unusual and irregular present tense verb morphology: only the third-person singular receives morphological marking.
    3. Standard English lacks multiple negation.
    4. Standard English has an irregular formation of reflexive pronouns with some forms based on the possessive pronouns, others not.
    5. Standard English fails to distinguish between second person singular and second person plural pronouns.
    6. Standard English has irregular forms of the verb be both in the present tense (am, is, are) and in the past (was, were).
    7. Standard English redundantly distinguishes between preterite and perfect verb forms both by the use of the auxiliary have and by the use of distinct preterite and past participle forms in many common verbs.
    8. Standard English has only a two-way contrast in its demonstrative system.

  7. I’m not sure I use this, but it sounds fine to me. Of the examples you list, the first sounds very natural, the second clumsy but grammatical, and the third ESL. “I will have gone to work by 8:00 tomorrow” means I will not be home at 8:00. “I will have had gone to work by 8:00 tomorrow” means by 8:00 I’ll have already left work. But such specificity is needed rarely if at all and isn’t eloquent.

  8. “If not for your witty remarks i will have had gone insane” is fine for me as “If not for your witty remarks I would have had gone insane,” actually more natural than the others. The “had” causes a minuscule change in meaning, but could refer to the more distant past. To be clear, these constructions don’t set off any alarm bells and make sense to me, but I doubt I hear them very often or ever really use them.

  9. To me this is very wrong. It evokes the passage in Douglas Adams’ Restaurant At The End Of The Universe where new tenses have been invented to make it easier to talk about time travel.
    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the history of catering. It has been built on the fragmented remains of… it will be built on the fragmented… that is to say it will have been built by this time, and indeed has been—
    One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can’t cope with. There is no problem with changing the course of history—the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.
    The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveler’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be descibed differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is futher complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.
    Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later aditions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term “Future Perfect” has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
    To resume:
    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the history of catering.
    It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is (wioll haven be) enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe.
    This is, many would say, impossible.
    In it, guests take (willan on-take) their places at table and eat (willan on-eat) sumptous meals while watching (willing watchen) the whole of creation explode around them.
    This, many would say, is equally impossible.
    You can arrive (mayan arrivan on-when) for any sitting you like without prior (late fore-when) reservation because you can book retrospectively, as it were, when you return to your own time (you can have on-book haventa forewhen presooning returningwenta retrohome).
    This is, many would not insist, absolutely impossible.
    At the restaurant you can meet and dine with (mayan meetan con with dinan on when) a fascinating cross-section of the entire population of space and time.
    This, it can be explained patiently, is also impossible.
    You can visit it as many times as you like (mayan on-visit re-onvisiting… and so on – for further tense correction consult Dr. Streetmentioner’s book) and be sure of never meeting yourself, becauses of the embarrassment this usually causes.
    This, even if the rest were true, which it isn’t, is patently impossible, say the doubters.
    All you have to do is deposit one penny in a savings account in your own era, and when you arrive at the End of Time the operations of compound interest means that the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for.
    This, many claim, is not merely impossible but clearly insane, which is why the advertising executives of the star system of Bastablon came up with this slogan: “If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?”

  10. michael farris says

    It’s not a mistake in pure grammar terms (like “I will have be going” would be) but seems more pleonasmic than anything else. I can’t perceive any real difference between “I will have gone” “I will have had gone”. That is, the ‘had’ doesn’t clash with anything it just doesn’t add anything new. It sounds more needlessly rendundant, like ‘more happier’ than crossing any major grammatical wires.
    I don’t _think_ I’d use it but I wouldn’t be too surprised if I had.

  11. I think this is common, and I think I’ve heard in the two country’s and the four regions of one in which I’ve lived. What makes it seem weird is its being rendered into formal speech.
    “I will’a had gone to the salon and had my hair done twice before the wedding.”
    “I will of had gone into the pub a few times before then.”
    I think it is more usual with other modals, but it works with ‘will’ too. But we always hear it with relaxed pronunciation, but then people type it out as whole words.

  12. dearieme says


  13. komfo,amonan says

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard that construction; it sounds like the production of someone who hasn’t fully learned the tense system. Not only does it sound wrong to me, but I would replace each of the three examples of “will have had” above with a different set of words. But if that’s the way the language is going, so be it.

  14. Not only does it sound wrong to me, but I would replace each of the three examples of “will have had” above with a different set of words. But if that’s the way the language is going, so be it.
    My reaction as well. Fatalism is so good for the blood pressure!

  15. Perhaps reflecting a rural New England background, but “I will have had worked quite a bit before the wedding next weekend” and “I’m done the dishes” sound perfectly standard to me. I wonder, concerning the dropping of “with” from the latter phrase, whether there’s any link between other similar constructions like “He’s headed down the Cape”.

  16. I’m wondering if this is a regional or class thing. It has taste of trying too hard to be “correct”, like “I wish I would have gone”, or “between him and I” (which itself seems to have supplanted “between him and me” in common use).
    Anyway, never heard it and it sounds wrong to me.

  17. It sounds OK to me — Massachusetts native, late 40s. I’m not sure I would use it in casual conversation. I would have to be making a deliberate effort to express some nuance that I thought wasn’t captured just by “will have”, but if that were the case, I could even imagine writing it.
    “I’m done work” sounds OK to me only in one specific sentence, “I’m done work for the day.” I don’t think I’d accept it in any other context.

  18. Texan here, and this is normal. I say “will have had Xed” far more often than “will have Xed” (if I say it at all…?)

  19. This might be irrelevant, but I might never get a better chance to mention that the southern UK’s “had have / had of” constructions.
    (I would have seen you.) Not if I’d’ve seen you first.
    If I hadn’t’ve been there, I wouldn’t be telling you now.
    Sometimes elaborated to “had’ve had”:
    If only I HAD’ve had known.

  20. Bathrobe says

    Actually, I think I use things like “Not if I’d’ve seen you first”, usually pronounced “Not if ida seen you first”. But I suspect I would interpret it as “Not if I would have seen you first”. I also use “If I hadna been there” (I guess it’s “If I had not have been there”, but that looks wrong).

  21. The construction hurts my brain but definitely not my ears.

  22. Rodger C says

    I find “will have had gone” very odd, but then the alternative that naturally occurs to me is “will have done gone,” which many people will no doubt find worse.

  23. Robe: I also use “If I hadna been there”
    I’d write it as “If I hadn’t have been there.” They’re really talking about the other-way-round construction (i.e. “have had”). Do you think they think there’s also something wrong with this? It sounds perfectly normal to me. Some people might even think of it as “If I hadn’t of been there.”
    Then there’s Dickens’s What are you a doing of?, which may only be related to the title phrase in that neither makes a whole lot of sense. At some time in the 19C. it must have been current.

  24. “I will have gone to work by 8:00 tomorrow” means I will not be home at 8:00. “I will have had gone to work by 8:00 tomorrow” means by 8:00 I’ll have already left work. But such specificity is needed rarely if at all and isn’t eloquent.
    I don’t understand how the second usage works, or why it would be used, when surely one would say : “I will have left work by 8:00 tomorrow.”
    I’ve never heard the “have had” usage in the (London area) UK.
    If I hadn’t’ve been there, I wouldn’t be telling you now. Sometimes elaborated to “had’ve had”: If only I HAD’ve had known.
    Here, the first seems perfectly normal: If I had not have been there..” but the insertion of the second “had” makes no sense to me.

    And “If I hadna been there” just sounds like Scottish usage for “had not been there.”

  25. “Robe: I also use “If I hadna been there”
    Ths one is totally standard, cf. “If It hadn’t Have Been For Love”.
    ‘will have had gone’
    For me “will have BEEN gone” works a lot better and is perectly natural and pretty common. “By then I’ll have been gone for days.”
    And “be” is not necessarily a complete substitute for “have” here.
    “He has gone there several times and been turned back each time”
    *”He is gone there several times etc”
    I think the differnece is that “be gone” is adjectival or stative rather than a present perfect construction.

  26. Indeed, be gone is a predicate-adjective construction, like be closed.

  27. Yepper.

  28. I can’t see that the second perfect adds anything. You have a future modal, will, a perfect, have, and a past participle, gone, so the event is construed as completed at a future point in time. The addition of “had” doesn’t make the event more complete. Maybe it’s redundant, which is OK by me.
    Also, this does not seem to be a very frequent or widespread construction, so I wouldn’t be inclined to panic about whatever little bit of language change this might represent.
    Chalk it up to dialectal variation.

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