present tense in clause referring to future action


"I will talk to John when he arrives" sounds okay.

"I will talk to John when he will arrive" sounds wierd, but it a mistake universally made by native French speakers. How do I explain this to my French friends?

2 answers


The downvote for Sanjay is a bit unfair.


In English, the present tense is used to indicate events at any time in the future in a dependent clause. "When" -- when used as a conjunction -- introduces a dependent clause, so the present tense always follows "when". 


While this is true of English, it is not often true of other languages such as Spanish and French. Not being a linguist, I can't explain the "why" behind this difference.

link comment answered Jul 04 '12 at 15:55 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

In my opinion, you must accept the correct sentence template and start using it without asking "why" 


When is always  followed by a present tense.  

For instance: I will call you when I have time.

                       I will tell you the secret when I meet you in person.

link edited Jul 04 '12 at 15:13 sanjay Expert

Reviewing the built in grammar in my head, that seems to make sense. I can provide that rule to my French colleagues. It is interesting that this is not true of other tenses of the main verb: I did not agree that Sanjay answered my question when he gives his incomplete rule. I would have agreed with Sanjay if he gives a more complete rule.

Kenneth BakalarJul 04 '12 at 17:24

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