Grammar Question

Photo: Stephan Baudy

Every now and then a teacher will come up to me with a grammar question.  One of the potential issues you face as an ALT is that we’re not required to have studied the English language.  In fact, we don’t even have to be native speakers of English.  I could go on about the potential issues (and benefits) of this, but we’ll save that for another post.

Today’s post is really about whether or not you can answer this grammar question.  A grammar teacher at my school was helping his son do his English homework.  The assignment was to rearrange some jumbled up words to form a sentence. (This is a popular kind of task to give English learners in Japan).

the time/ finished/ I / it / comes / by / will / he / have /

His son wrote: “I will have finished it by the time he comes.”  However, the answer was supposed to be “I will have it finished by the time he comes.”

So, the question to me was “What’s the difference between these two sentences?”

Now, as a native English speaker with no education in English grammar, I was fairly stumped.  In reality, they have the same meaning to me, but I feel as though there’s some complicated grammar issue going on.  Is “finished” serving as a verb in one sentence and an adjective in another? Is “will” serving different purposes as a verb? Maybe it’s just the fact that the word “it” has moved around?

I ended up just telling him that the had the same meaning to me, but that “I will have it finished…” was more common to hear.  What would you have done? Do have any additional insight into this grammar issue? I’d sure appreciate learning about this one.

That said, I think that publicly displaying these kinds of questions we’re asked is helpful to the Language Teacher community as a whole,  so if and when I am asked more, I will be posting them.  Feel free to post any others you’ve gotten as well.


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