Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Or Will We Have?

Posted by Neal on April 11, 2010

Doug likes to say he has no interest in the kind of linguistic stuff I talk about, but every now and then something will catch his ear. For a while, there was a videogame that Doug and Adam had been helping each other on, and one day Adam said to Doug that after they completed their current quest, “We will have gotten all the items!” (Nice future perfect tense, Adam!)

“Yeah!” Doug said. But his confidence was quickly replaced by doubt. “Or will we?”

A pause. Then: “Or will have we? Or have we?” I was charmed by his grappling with the finer points of subject-auxiliary inversion, verb-phrase ellipsis, and perfect tenses. For the record, he should have said, “Or will we have?”

Or should he have?

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7 Responses to “Or Will We Have?”

  1. The Ridger said

    Yes, he should have. The aux moves to the front, the subject and main verb follow as normal. (You knew that, of course, and I’m answering a rhetorical question, aren’t I?)

  2. The Ridger said

    Or will we? Sure, that’s fine.

    Would Brits say “Or will we do?” ;-)

  3. GPHemsley said

    Put me down as seconding Ryan’s analysis.

  4. dainichi said

    Question: Are the below possible for you too? They sound very awkward to me.

    He should have said it in the other way, shouldn’t he have?
    He’ll be saying that correctly in no time. Or will he be?

    I’m not saying that other auxiliaries and tag questions necessarily behave in the same way, though.

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