I have been reading the transcript of ''Intermediate Spanish Podcast'' by Spanish Language Coach. Here is the link:


In the third paragraph appear the lines'' Quizás te hayas preguntado, ¿cuándo habrá sido el momento en que los seres humanos comenzaron a hacer música? ''

My question relates to the second part of the sentence''cuándo habrá sido..''. It clearly is a future tense construct relating to the past. Normally,I would say it translates as ''when it will have been''.

Now, I have done some research in Word Reference https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/habr%C3%A1-sido-habr%C3%ADa-ido-conditional-conditional-perfect-future-perfect.3071396/

Also, I see a link on this very site "What could/would a policeman have been doing in a donut shop?"

However, I am still a little confused. I mean in the podcast what he wants to say is,''when was the moment in which humans started to make music?''

Apparently, the construct of ''habrá sido..''can be used in a hypothetical way for past events,for conjecture.

Can anyone explain more?give other examples to get me used to this idea?

Also, what other ways can the same ideas be asked? Is ''cuándo había sido ..''also correct? Or other alternatives?

I do not mean to repeat a question, but I feel this is a grammatical construct I haven't really been aware of and it may help other learners.

1 Answer 1


The future perfect can be used to express:

  • Future before future: Cuando hayas terminado la escuela, habrás aprendido muchas cosas (By the time you finish school - a future event - you will have learnt lots of things - future before future)

  • Deduction about the past: ¿Cuándo habrá sido que aprendí eso? (When may it have been that I learnt that?)

Here you have this explanation:

Al igual que el futuro simple, el compuesto admite con frecuencia una interpretación modal en la que no expresa localización de la acción en un tiempo posterior al momento de habla, sino suposición o posibilidad (futuro de conjetura), como en Me habré confundido al anotar el número (= ‘Puede que me haya confundido’, ‘Probablemente me he confundido’). En general, el futuro compuesto de conjetura equivale al pretérito perfecto compuesto más alguna de esas marcas de modalidad: Habrá estado enfermo = Probablemente [adverbio modal] ha estado [pretérito perfecto compuesto] enfermo.

Just as in English we can paraphrase: It may have been in elementary school that I learnt that as: It was probably in elementary school that I learnt that, in Spanish we can paraphrase the future perfect indicating past conjecture as a past tense with an adverb of probability:

Habrá sido en la escuela primaria que aprendí eso = Probablemente haya sido en la escuela primaria que aprendí eso

"Había sido" could be used to indicate past before past and would not be used to convey the same meaning, for example:

  • No fue en la escuela secundaria que aprendí eso, sino que había sido en la escuela primaria.
  • 1
    The important learning point in the explanation may be "Al igual que el futuro simple" since it seems to me that is more characteristic of Spanish than English.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 18 at 14:11
  • 1
    We do have a similarity between English and Spanish there too. For example, somebody knocks at the door and you say, Will that be John? and in Spanish, ¿Será Juan? This is not real future because the person is already there.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 18 at 17:46
  • 1
    I do not think I would say that, perhaps a dialect thing. There is, of course, a sense in which all statements about the future have a hypothetical element to them.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:10
  • 2
    In his Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Quirk has this example: That will be the postman. [on hearing the doorbell ring]
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:29

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