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  5. "O que terá acontecido com el…

"O que terá acontecido com ele?"

Translation:What could have happened to him?

August 4, 2013

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This is the future perfect tense. According to other references, It should be translated as "What will have happened to him?"


Yes, but I believe there is some idiomatic aspects here. The literal translation is surely "what will have..." but when we say "o que terá acontecido..." it can also mean "what may have happened..." depending on the context. For example: you arrive at a birthday party and ask "o aniversariante já chegou?" someone answer "Ainda não" and you say "o que terá acontecido com ele?" It's not a question about the future but the past...


The dual role of this tense is mentioned in the book Portuguese: A Reference Manual (Ackerlind and Jones-Kellogg, 2011):

(1.) The future perfect indicative tense expresses an action or state of being which will have been completed before that of the main verb (English "will have" + past participle). For example: "Ele terá trazido o carro antes de eu chegar" (He will have brought the car before I arrive).

(2.) The future perfect indicative also expresses probability, doubt, or conjecture with respect to the present perfect or the preterite. For example: "Ele terá estado em casa" (He has probably / may have been at home).


I would add to it that the "possibility" meaning is only acceptable in questions, not in affirmative sentences.....


I see. So when you hear "Ele terá estado em casa", you understand that he was definitely at home. That appears to contradict the book.

If I heard someone say "He will have been at home" (the literal translation) I would mentally attach a "I suppose/expect" giving the statement a small air of doubt.


....I think the "air of doubt" is Ok, like adding an imaginary "I think" at the end of the sentence.

But would you replace that statement with another tense and still have the same meaning? Like "he would have been at home"?


The problem here, as usual, is that there is too little context to get a grip on what is really meant by either "He will have been at home" or "He would have been at home".

One the other hand "He may have been at home" is clearly expressing uncertainty, and from what you say you don't agree with this translation, unless I have misunderstood you.


That's great,Davu and emeyr! I joined DL to learn French and decided to follow Portuguese module so as to give here the same help I get from French native speakers. I am surprised by the fact that many times it is me who learns, not even English but also Portuguese :-)

Although the sentence "o que terá acontecido com ele?" has this past reference, you can also note that the revelation of the fact (what happened to him if something actually happened...) can only occur in the future. The deep sense in the sentence is "what will eventually be known about what happened to him?" (sorry if the English is too bad, I'm trying my best here...). Do you think this could help getting the meaning of the sentence?


I agree. We have to take expressions on their own terms in the target language.

Your explanation that "o que terá acontecido com aquele avião da Malásia?" is one of conjecture about a past situation is excellent.


sorry if the English is too bad, I'm trying my best here

Your English is magnificent, my dude. Most native speakers wouldn't have expressed themselves with anywhere near the same elegance.


Perhaps. I think emeyr has put her finger on the problem: the lack of context. I read the sentence "What will have happened to him?" and find it curiously empty of meaning unlike "What will happen to him?". If you add something like "by the time he is 50" then it makes sense. The "What could/may have happened to him" interpretation doesn't jump out as a possible meaning although now I am aware of it I can make sense of the other translations in this set of lessons.


I totally agree. That's why learning a language in terms of translations is not desirable since sometimes there isn't a entirely right one.

In this specific case (o que terá acontecido com ele?), it is better for you to deal with it as an idiomatic construction. When you learn its meaning and usage independently of its English correspondence then DL's weird translations will be irrelevant. It is a very common construction in Portuguese and there is no need of context. If a Brazilian asks today "o que terá acontecido com aquele avião da Malásia?" everybody will know that is a question about "probability, doubt, conjecture...". I have been thinking about it and realized that you would use this construction when the person you are talking to also doesn't know the answer. You don't expect an answer at all. If you really wanted to know the answer you would simply say "o que aconteceu com ele?". I believe this is important to understand its usage.

I'd like to say that when DL doesn't make sense try to put the frustration aside and count on us, native speakers, to clarify it. I will always be glad to help. ;-)


Thanks, Davu.

Your (1) explanation of Future Perfect represents the usual meaning of the tense in English. If we wanted to add doubt/conjecture, we would say something like: "Do you think he will have...by...?

Explanation #2 is an entirely Portuguese interpretation of "Future" perfect. The sentence given as an example: "Ele terá estado em casa" can be translated as "he may have been at home".


I must say I was glad to see the snippet in that book because it explains why Brazilians interpret the future perfect the way they do in other lessons. They often use "could" where I see "will". The problem is, as you have mentioned before, there needs to be extra context in this tense as the name "future perfect" only really makes sense when there is some other state/event involved.



I remember hearing What will have happened to him in the past. I think it's a bit archaic. I have never heard What may have happened to him, have you?


I think so, and "What might have happened to him?". A usage note concerning may/might can be found here: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/may

Modal verbs are tricky. I found myself defending another use of the modal "will" in this discussion: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/4022445 (note, the downvotes currently seen there are not mine).



Your first link references this: "They may have been old-fashioned but they were excellent teachers."

That is different from: "What may have happened to him?" (which is conjecturing about the future, not the past).


You do get it as a clause. You don't get it as a standalone sentence. I never heard from him again after he left on that Jungle cruise with his wife and his girlfriend. I'm curious what may have happened to him!" is perfectly fine. It means you're curious about the range of things that may have happened to him, especially but not only whatever did actually happen. It's a bit of an invitation to speculation as well as an indirect request for whatever information the other person may have.


Dictionaries are irritating sometimes and their examples often don't touch on the most interesting situations, in this case using may/might to indicate possibility in questions. To me, something like "Do you think he might/may have had an accident?" doesn't seem too outlandish.


So far I'm doing quite well with Longman.

It's rather more complete than any other.


Isn't there an unstated time shift in both of your examples to the times of departure of the person en route to his/her party and of the plane? Taken from those points in time, a future tense seems apt for your questions to me.


I'm assuming the question was for me. Well, I have to admit I didn't understand your point. :-)

Maybe it helps if I contextualize my previous answer.

Do you remember a plane from Malaysia that disapeared a couple of years ago? It took of (in Australia? I'm not sure) and crashed in the Indic Ocean. By that time there was no evidence of the crash and it became a kind of mistery with many theories (some of them really crazy). No one knew for sure what had happened to the plane. So, at that time, you would hear a brazilian saying "o que terá acontecido com aquele avião?".

Today, as long as it is a very well known accident, if someone say "o que terá acontecido com aquele avião da Malásia" one would possible answer something like "Você não ficou sabendo? Encontraram os destroços numa ilha!" ("Didn't you know? Some debris were found in an island!". It would be surprising making that question in those terms, since it sounds like no one know the answer).


I am sorry AdrianoMai1 for not making my point clear. It was not to do with your explanation of the extra meaning of the given sentence, for which many thanks. It was instead concerned with your comment 'It's not a question about the future but the past... ' . In examples like yours, before the facts are known, I think people may visualize them starting from known earlier positions in time and then suggest things like 'He / She will have left work at 6, as always, .. ' , 'The plane will have taken off, on schedule .. ' - hence the future perfect tense. By the way, I am not sure how congested the airways are getting, but I seem to remember in São Paulo counting 14 lanes of road traffic (all fairly full) and all heading in the same direction at one location – so, in that city it is possible there is an ongoing situation where past, present and future tenses might be required to explain a delay.


It was not your fault! You were probably quite clear, the problem is my bad English.

I believe I understand your point now. I'm not sure about the conclusions though.

Let me show some different situations:

1) O que teria acontecido com ele se tivesse estudado mais? (Here we have the classic construction and we are talking about a hypothetical future over a hypothetical past. Depending on the context, you may or may not expect an answer. It could be a parent talking about a son that didn't went well in the professional life and sounds more like getting something off his chest. But it could be a real question to a carreer consultant, for example, when somebody is analysing the decisions in the past to make better ones for the future).

2) O que terá acontecido com ele? (Here we have almost a rhetorical question, since the expected answer would be "Eu [também] não sei!"). If I understood you right, at this point both might be thinking about something happened after the last common known "position" of the subject (he got stuck in a traffic jam, he had a flight delay...), thus the use of the "future" tense. Did I get it right?

Well, the important thing here is that those questions using future (specially "futuro do presente") without a context have a high level of uncertainty. They are really common in Brazil and it is very important for portuguese learners to get used to them.

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I agree with you and so do my Continental Portuguese friends here in Johannesburg.


Jesus... DuoLingo needs to start recognizing more English contractions. >_<* Gonna keep reporting until this is rectified.


I'm not going to complain when they finally use an idiomatic English translation! Yay!


Isn't "what could have happened with him" possible, since sometimes the future is used as a "conjecture"?


that is "o que poderia ter acontecido com ele?"


Entendo, mas o DL está aceitando:
"What could have happened to him?"
Logo deveria aceitar:
"What could have happened with him"


I see Duo has changed the translation now.

Actually, we translate "happen to" and "happen with" the same way in Portuguese.

  • O que aconteceu com ele? = What happened to/with him?


That's the form Duolingo currently uses for the reverse translation: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/9059566

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