In French grammar, the tense futur passé corresponds to the past tense in English. Sometimes the tense is also called futur antérieur.
The future past tense is used in particular to describe:
- a future action that occurs before another future action
- an action that is completed in the future
- assumptions or conjectures
However, futur passé is only one of the three French future tenses; the other two are futur simple and futur proche.
The future past tense is a compound tense (like the passé composé, for example) made up of two parts: the future form of an auxiliary verb + the past participle of the main verb. In other words:
- être or avoir in futur + the main verb’s participe passé
This is also shown in the tables below:
Note that the choice between être and avoir is determined by the main verb; i.e. the auxiliary verb must match the main verb. Examples:
- “Je sera parti à midi”
- Correct: I will be gone by dinner
- Wrong: I am gone by dinner
- “Je te prêterai ma voiture quand je l’aurai lavé”
- Correct: I’ll lend you the car when I have washed it
- Wrong: I’ll lend you the car when it is washed
The future past tense is used in three main ways:
1. to describe future action that occurs before another future action (here futur passé is used together with futur simple):
- Quand je serai parti, ils fermeront l’usine = When I have left, they will close the factory
- Vous le ferez aussitôt qu’elle sera arrivée = You will do it as soon as she arrives
In the sentences above, the words fermeront and ferez are in the future tense and are thus the last future actions in their respective sentences.
Note that the above usage typically occurs in temporal clauses where the temporal clause is preceded by one of the following subordinating connectives: aussitôt que, dès que, lorsque, quand, une fois que and après que.
2. To describe an action that will be completed in the future (here the future past tense is used alone):
- Dans trois semaines, l’usine sera fermé = In 3 weeks the factory will be closed
- Je l’aurai terminé à 15h00 = I have completed it at 15.00
3. To express assumptions or conjectures (here the future past tense is often used with the present tense):
- J’ai perdu mes clés! T’es sûr? Je pense que tu l’auras oublié chez toi. = I forgot my keys! Are you sure? I think you left them at home. I think you left them at home.
- Jerôme est malheureux ; il aura perdu = Jerôme is unhappy; he must have lost
There is a fourth use, though not as common as the three above, in historical narratives where events in a person’s life can be described with futur passé, even though these events took place a long time ago:
- L’esclave aura tué son maître = The slave killed / wanted to kill his master
- Il aura écrit le livre en trois semaines = He wrote / ended up writing the book in three weeks
As the examples above show, it can be difficult to translate these forms of futur passé directly.