+0


Dear teachers,

What are the different uses / meanings of "BE TO" in the present and past?
Are my interpretations correct?

1) I am to tidy up my room before my mother gets back.
= I will have to do it (obligation given my an external authority)

2) I were to tidy up my room before my mother got back.
= I had to do it (but the interlocutor doesn't know if the speaker did tidy up his room or not)

3) I were to have tidied up my room before my mother got back.
= I had to do it but I didn't.

Thank you in advance,
Hela
Comments  
Hi Hela,

What are the different uses / meanings of "BE TO" in the present and past?
Are my interpretations correct?

1) I am to tidy up my room before my mother gets back.
= I will have to do it (obligation given my an external authority) Yes

2) I were to tidy up my room before my mother got back.
= I had to do it (but the interlocutor doesn't know if the speaker did tidy up his room or not)


Don't try to use subjunctive. Say I was to tidy up my room before my mother got back. Your interpretation is correct. However, there is an implication that the tidying up was not done,because if it had been done, one would normally just state that fact, something like 'I tidied up my room before . . .'

3) I were to have tidied up my room before my mother got back.
= I had to do it but I didn't.


Again, say 'was', not 'were'. The perfect infinitive puts the focus more on the completion of the act of tidying. It certainly implies strongly that this was not done.

Best wishes, Clive


Thanks Clive, you're right I should've written "was"; I didn't mean to use a subjunctive.

So according to you there isn't much difference between "be to + present infinitive" and "be to + perfect infinitive", both mean that the obligation was not fulfilled?

Would you please give me more examples of that kind?

Have a nice day,

Hela
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Hi Hela,

So according to you there isn't much difference between "be to + present infinitive" and "be to + perfect infinitive", both mean that the obligation was not fulfilled?

Yes, there's not a lot of difference.

Mary was to cook dinner last night. Just describes a past 'fact' (ie an expectation).

Mary was to have cooked diner last night. But when we arrived at her house, there was no dinner on the table. As I noted earlier, the perfect infinitive puts the focus more on the expected completion of the act of cooking.

Mary is to cook dinner. She has been given the responsibility of cooking.

Mary is to have cooked dinner by 7pm this evening. She has been given the responsibility of completing the cooking by 7pm.

Best wishes, Clive
Dear Clive, hope you're still on line.

Could I say then that:

a) "Mary WAS to cook dinner / They were to stop off in Paris last night" = past expectation/obligation (?) but we don't know if the action was completed or not, the message is not clear.

As you mentioned earlier, if we use the first personal pronoun it seems clear that the subject didn't perfom the obligation. "I was to cook dinner last night." = I didn't ?

b) "Mary HAD to cook dinner / I had to tidy up my room / They had to stop off in Paris last night" = past obligation and the action was performed.

c) "Mary WAS TO HAVE cooked dinner / I was to have tidied up... / They were to stop off in Paris last night" = past expectation/obligation and the action was definitely not performed.

Correct?

Thank you for your patience, Emotion: smile

Hela
Hi,

Could I say then that:

a) "Mary WAS to cook dinner / They were to stop off in Paris last night" = past expectation/obligation (?) but we don't know if the action was completed or not, the message is not clear. Yes

As you mentioned earlier, if we use the first personal pronoun it seems clear that the subject didn't perfom the obligation. "I was to cook dinner last night." = I didn't ? Yes

b) "Mary HAD to cook dinner / I had to tidy up my room / They had to stop off in Paris last night" = past obligation and the action was performed. The obligation definitely existed. And was probably but not definitely fulfilled.

c) "Mary WAS TO HAVE cooked dinner / I was to have tidied up... / They were to stop off in Paris last night" = past expectation/obligation and the action was definitely not performed. First two, yes. Last one, unclear, see A above.

Best wishes, Clive
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Clivec) "Mary WAS TO HAVE cooked dinner / I was to have tidied up... / They were to stop off in Paris last night" = past expectation/obligation and the action was definitely not performed. First two, yes. Last one, unclear, see A above.

The last sentence should have been: They were to have stopped off in Paris last night. This way you're saying that the action was definitely not performed.

Hope this helps,

- YoHf

[8]
Yes, Yohf, this is exactly what I meant. Again, I made a mistake. Emotion: embarrassed

Best wishes.
Clive,

Help me to see these disputable things more in order:

The original poster stated that if we use the first personal pronoun it seems to be clear that the subject didn't perform the obligation, as in "I was to cook dinner last night." I would say "Yes" to that if the poster make that very clear that it is what he thinks to be clear, not definitely sure of it. More context can challenge my or anybody else's decision.

eg,

A: Did you keep the promise to cook dinner for a bunch of people last night?

B: Yes, I was to cook dinner for a bunch of people last night and I did exactly that. I kept my promise.

In this context, Person B carried out the promise and executed the required task which is cooking dinner for a bunch of people.

I think the same argument can be laid out for Question C. More context can set the stage for differing decisions.

My Q:

Is the part in bold letters correct?
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.