From Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

Die Celler Polizeiinspektion wird noch eine Weile brauchen, bis sie den Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend rekonstruiert hat.

Why is the perfect rekonstruiert hat used here, even though the first part of the sentence is in present and implies that the "reconstruction" has not occurred?

Can we instead use the present

(a) ..., bis sie den Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend rekonstruiert.

or the future perfect

(b) ..., bis sie den Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend rekonstruiert haben wird.


  • (b) is what people get taught, German pupils and foreign language learners alike. The FAZ original is what people actually use, because it’s concise enough with indicators like bis and wird noch + INF. Since they’re already in the process of reconstructing, (a) would be wrong; kennt or versteht would work, though.
    – Crissov
    Oct 24, 2014 at 20:35
  • (c) ..., bis der Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend (von ihr) rekonstruiert ist. (d) ..., bis der Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend (von ihr) rekonstruiert worden ist. Oct 25, 2014 at 4:59
  • The "wird brauchen" in the first part of the sentence is future tense (werden + infinitive), not present tense. Present tense would be "braucht". This future is used for a guess with high probability, often with an additional "wohl" as in "Er wird wohl später kommen".
    – rogermue
    Oct 25, 2014 at 6:09

6 Answers 6


According to Duden Volume 4 – Die Grammatik, the Futur II (future perfect) may be replaced by the Perfekt (perfect) if the reference to the future is established by some expression of time or similar:

Sie rechnen aus, wie viel heute jede Minute über die Brücke gehen und wie viel in zehn Jahren über die Brücke gegangen sein werden (Böll).
Auch möglich: … und wie viel in zehn Jahren über die Brücke gegangen sind.

Am kommenden Mittwoch wird das Raumschiff den Mond erreicht haben.
Auch möglich: Am kommenden Mittwoch hat das Raumschiff den Mond erreicht.

The use of the Futur II is more customary if the statement is uncertain:

Knapp 22 Stunden später startete das Gerät wieder, und alles spricht dafür, dass die Männer … am kommenden Donnerstag sicher zur Erde zurückgekehrt sein werden (Die Zeit, 1969).
Nicht so deutlich: … am kommenden Donnerstag sicher zur Erde zurückgekehrt sind.


Depending on which time reference model you prefer, the different tenses have slightly different meanings.

According to Reichenbach (1947) one of the prototypical meaning of future perfect (anterior future) can be represented as this:


whereas S = point of speach, E = event, R = point of reference In other words: Someone's talking about an future event, but refering to it as anterior.

Anyway, the anterior future can be replaced with the present perfect (anterior present) as it also represents the relation E-R, since present perfect is represented by E-R,S

Moreover there are serious discussions among linguists wheter future and future perfect are tenses or moods. It is undeniable that these two tenses imply some kind of uncertainty. Have a look at these sentences:

  1. Ich fahre im August nach Griechenland.
  2. Ich werde im August nach Griechenland fahren.
  3. Morgen ist Sonntag.
  4. Morgen wird Sonntag sein.
  5. Wo sind deine Kinder momentan? Sie werden zuhause sein.
  6. Wo sind deine Kinder momentan? Sie sind bei ihrer Mutter.

In (1) and (2) we're speaking about a future event, but (1) is more likely to happen than (2). (3) is also refering to something in the future, but it is undoubtable that tomorrow is sunday, so in this case you can only use the present, (4) would be ungrammatically. Moreover (5) and (6) show that the mood issue is more important than the actual tense, since you can use future tense to express your doubt for something present (5), whereas (6) shows that the speaker is sure that his kids are with their mom.

So, the conclusion here is: You use simple future and future perfect more often to express aspects of mood than simply refering to future events. The use of the past perfect in

... bis sie den Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend rekonstruiert hat

is just fine, no need to use future perfect here, although you can, if you want.


"bis"(zeitlich) + perfect tense is quite normal in sentences such as:

Es wird wohl noch einige Zeit dauern, bis wir die Arbeit erledigt haben.

It is clear from the future tense at the beginning of the sentence that this sentence refers to something in future time. If someone would use future perfect at the end, he would imitate Latin use of future perfect, which is not usual in German. On the contrary, it is cumbersome and superfluous.

By the way, future perfect is rarely used. It was used in Latin, but it is used only by pupils learning Latin when they have to translate a Latin future perfect. In spoken language it is only used for guesses referring to past time:

Wo wird er wohl gestern Abend gewesen sein? Natürlich bei seiner Freundin.

One of the best examples that grammatical tense and its use can deviate considerably.

  • Very nice example: It shows that what is commonly taught to be the German future tense is not a real grammatical future tense at all, that is, it is not a grammatically required marker for future events (like, for instance, English future tense). Instead, it is rather some kind of grammatical mood. Also, the reason why it is commonly called future tense is, of course, the century-old habit of describing any language's grammer in terms of Latin grammar.
    – mach
    Oct 27, 2014 at 18:30
  • Grammatically it is a future perfect. But the grammatical tense and its use can deviate considerably. In grammar the verb forms are traditionally called after their grammatical tense, and that is useful. But how these tenses are used is a different matter. Present tense can refer to future time, "wäre" in Das wäre schön is grammatically past subjunctive but refers to present or future time, and future perfect tense is almost never used for future, but mostly with reference to past time.
    – rogermue
    Oct 27, 2014 at 18:44

I translated it on the fly and arrived at:

It will take a while till the Celler police inspection will have reconstructed the happenings from Monday morning.

I am not sure if it will fit perfectly.

Also I can't answer the why. It comes to the writer how he would like to say it, sometimes.

It is like it should say: It will take time till the reconstruction process is done.

You asked if they could have used (a) – Probably yes. But it sounds very strange/uncommon. It sounds more like: It will take time until they start the reconstruction. For example they have other stuff to do and reconstruct it in some days.

But (b) sounds pretty ok. It is like your original quote.


The phrase is correct, I think. My English isn’t the best, so I’ll answer in German:

Der Satz sagt aus, dass in der Zukunft dieser dann vergangene Fall eintreffen wird. In der Zukunft ist der Tathergang dann rekonstriert, beziehungsweise das Perfekt dann berechtigt, da die Handlung vergangen ist.


Actually your second alternative is more correct than the newspaper:

(b) ..., bis sie den Hergang der Ereignisse am Montagabend rekonstruiert haben wird.

Even the newspapers are not perfect. :)

  • 1
    And why exactly?
    – Emanuel
    Oct 24, 2014 at 21:22
  • @Emanuel didn't have much time to answer, was in the bus, about to go out. Essentially his question is self explanatory. It should be future tense as boaten says, but the newspaper article contained a mistake which (as non-German person) confused him.
    – Kolja
    Oct 24, 2014 at 21:51
  • Just because logic suggests it should be future tense, that doesn't mean that it actually has to be. We're talking about language here. Unless you have a source that says "Present perfect used for an event that is in the future" is wrong, I am far from convinced. Just think about "Er hat gesagt, dass er keine Zeit hat.". Many other languages would use a past tense in the second part because it is logical. German has a different logic here though and I don't see why it shouldn't have one for the future. As far as I'm concerned (native speaker) the sentence as it is in FAZ is perfectly fine
    – Emanuel
    Oct 25, 2014 at 19:56
  • after having read the other answers (that do include sources) I have to give -1 because you're assumption is not true
    – Emanuel
    Oct 25, 2014 at 19:58

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