I wanted to use both pluperfect and future perfect, but I feel that they're most commonly used by having sentences with 'by the time' and 'by' e.g.

I had left the cafe by the time you left your house.
I will have completed it by next week.

I'd like to know how to say these in German and construct sentences with the 'by' and 'by the time' elements.

  • Please explain: "I will have completed it by next week": does this mean "I will have completed it before next week begins?" Or "at some time during next week"? I suppose the first one, but I am not sure... – Christian Geiselmann Jan 25 '18 at 18:30

I had left the cafe by the time you left your house.

Two times perfect conveys the same time:

Ich habe das Cafe zu der/jener Zeit verlassen als/zu der du dein Haus verlassen hast.

Plusquamperfect should be accompanied by a marker as schon or bereits:

Ich hatte das Cafe zu der/jener Zeit schon verlassen als/zu der du dein Haus verlassen hast.

The reason is German speakers are very sloppy about time forms and rely on marker words instead.

I will have completed it by next week.

To complete translates into German fertigstellen or abschließen, which have both pretty clunky past participles. German speakers use fertig sein instead, and the usual German sloppyness about time forms apply:

Nächste Woche ist es fertig.

Nächste Woche habe ich es fertig.

The following to expressions are valid but cumbersome. Nobody writes or even talks like that.

Ich werde es nächste Woche fertig haben. (Futur I of sein werden/haben werden + Adjektiv)

Ich werde es nächste Woche fertiggestellt haben. (Futur II)

Also note participles can be used as they were adjectives, so Futur II can be seen as a special case of Futur I.


Let me give you the way I'd express your sentences in informal, spoken German (not a word-by-word translation, but a natural way to convey the meaning). The translation might depend on the context, so I'll give my interpretation as well.

I had left the cafe by the time you left your house.

Als du aus dem Haus gingst, hatte ich das Café schon verlassen.

E.g. you and me were in the same cafe that day, by coincidence, but didn't meet because I had already left when you started from home.

I will have completed it by next week.

Ich habe es nächste Woche fertig.

You asked me when I'll finish my task.


Probably the best way for you to answer your own question is to use the English<-->German translator app in Google (translate.google.com) by entering sequentially any number phrases using the English word "by".

You can turn on the "instant translator" to see instant German translation/interpretations of "by" statements, such as "by your leave." (U.S. military), "by far...", "no longer by chance.", "if by chance ...", "by the time you ...", "in the sweet by and by", and etc.

In the lower left corner of the input box you'll find a keyboard which you can use to enter "by" phrases and sentences into the input ('source') box.

I use the Google translator app daily as my personal German language "tutor". For me its many and variety of features makes it a major language learning tool.

  • @Tom Edwards: I neglected to say that when using the Google translator one can also cut and paste into the input (source) box text taken from other sources, your own text editor/word processor, Internet news websites and blogs, and etc.. – К. Келлогг Смиф Jan 25 '18 at 20:30
  • 2
    This does not answer the question. – Carsten S Jan 25 '18 at 20:45
  • Au contraire. It certainly does. – К. Келлогг Смиф Jan 26 '18 at 1:42
  • I am in the process of using the Google translator contemporaneously with the Yandex (Russian) translator to write an eBook which is a bilingual-trilingual translation of a 50-year old German book which describes German humor within chapters on nine regional dialects. I have completed bi-lingual translations, complete with chapter footnotes and chapter tri-lingual glossaries (German <--> English plus the regional dialect (Berlinerische for which include of two chapters of the German sourcebook, complete with footnotes – К. Келлогг Смиф Jan 26 '18 at 2:45
  • (con't) and chapter tri-lingual glossaries. I have studied many languages, and I have found that Microsoft's "Translator" app -- an app which can be found embedded in many programs in addition to Google and Yandex -- is an invaluable asset when learning to read, write, and speak a foreign language. – К. Келлогг Смиф Jan 26 '18 at 3:10

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