Community Tutor
Help! A difficult English grammar point

I was looking for people who support the climate change theory and for people who instead denies it, and I came across this video:

At minute 1:54 of the video Lord Monckton (Viscount of Brenchley, he's British), on the left, says:

"...and they predicted that by 2025 there WOULD HAVE BEEN one Celsius of warming compared with 1990. Well, it's not even going to be half of that. The rate of global warming is not much more than a half of what they originally predicted".

My question is: why did Lord Monckton say: "WOULD HAVE BEEN"?

He 'reported a prediction' (about the FUTURE of course) spoken in the PAST, and If he used a structure with 'WOULD', he was imagining an original 'direct speech' with 'WILL', that is the future simple 'WILL BE':

"by 2025 there WILL BE one Celsius of warming...".

But as far as I know, the future 'WILL BE' should become the structure 'WOULD BE' in the reported speech.

However, Lord Monckton maybe could also have imagined the original words as a 'conditional sentence' implying an 'if-clause':

"by 2025 there WOULD BE one Celsius of warming...(if we continued with this amount of CO2 emission...etc.)".

Could the fact (according to him) that the prediction came out false have made him say 'WOULD HAVE BEEN' (conditional perfect)?

The conditional 'WOULD BE' can become 'WOULD HAVE BEEN' if the hypothesis that was made in the past was 'unreal':

"if I had 10 million I WOULD BE rich"  -  "he said that if he had had 10 million he WOULD HAVE BEEN rich".

But, as far as I know, the hypothesis must be 'unreal' AT THE MOMENT IT WAS SAID, and not to come out false later, to make someone use the 'conditional perfect' in the reported speech.

Or am I wrong?

May 9, 2018 4:18 PM
Comments · 16
BMD is correct. There’s nothing strange here; it’s simply a bit of advanced grammar that native speakers don’t often have a use for. Non-natives can easily learn this stuff if they want to get an advantage over native speakers on the proficiency exams. (By the way, I believe Italian has something similar.)

The key is the word “by” — it is frequently used to place us in a future time, and then look back on a continuously unfolding situation in our future as if it were the past.

Original quote: “By 2025 there WILL HAVE BEEN one Celsius of warming compared with 1990.“ (Reported speech:  “… said that by 2025 there WOULD HAVE BEEN one Celsius of warming compared with 1990.”)

In this example, someone trying to predict the future places us in 2025, and then looks back on how things will have changed during the intervening time. To take a more mundane example, you arrive home to find a note from your wife: “Dear John, by the time you read this, I’ll have emptied the joint bank accounts, appropriated your LP records, liberated your pet canary, and left the country.” 

May 9, 2018

Thank you, Phil! And I take my hat off to BMD, too!

Yes, in Italian we use the 'future perfect' in the same way, but it didn't occur to me, I was "fixed" with my mind on the 'reported speech' side of the issue, on the fact that the 'would have + past participle' form in the reported speech could ONLY correspond to an identical form in the direct speech OR to a 'would + infin. without to' if it was a conditional implying an 'unreal' past hypothesis.

Actually no book of grammar that I studied makes an example. Not even Michael Swan's renowned Practical English Usage, in the 'table of correspondence between verbs in direct and reported speech', mentions the future perfect! (at least in my edition).


May 9, 2018


Thank you for the grammar and for your sense of humor !

May 9, 2018

Hi @Phil !

Yes, your sentence in the direct speech is right!

However, be careful with 'stative verbs' (essere, avere, ecc.), we don't usually use them with the 'future perfect' (unless you use it to mean 'probability' : 'Come mai Giorgio ieri non è venuto al lavoro?', 'mah, sarà stato male'). But in this case it's different, because 'essere' here is not 'stative', it means something like 'sarà accaduto', or, better, it's like to say: 'entro il 2025 la temperatura sarà aumentata di...'ecc., so it can be used.

As an alternative to 'entro', you can use 'per', in this case it means the same: 'per il 2025 ci sarà stato un riscaldamento di un grado Celsius rispetto al 1990."


May 11, 2018

Guilio, I meant it could be a future perfect tense in indirect speech. 

(They said: "There will have been 1°C of warming by 2055"

=> They predicted that there would have been 1°C of warming by 2055.)

Anyway, I hope we'll get some help from a native-speaker on this sentence. 

May 9, 2018
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