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Hello Clive,

CalifJim wrote:
http://www.EnglishForward.com/English/ToBeTo/cqdbr/Post.htm

You said:
"You were (to ...) ' indicates past necessity, eg I was to call Tom yesterday. There is a strong implication that the event did not happen, eg I didn't call Tom."

Do I misinterpret something that I can not reconcile CalifJim's assertions in the above link with yours?
You express opposite opinions vis a vis the connotations of 'to be + present form'.
('I was to call Tom' and 'The shipment was to arrive one day ago')


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Hi,

CJ said The first merely focuses on the fact that some obligation existed in the past without as much emphasis on the implication that this obligation has not been fulfilled.

I said There is a strong implication that the event did not happen, eg I didn't call Tom."

I don't think we are expressing opposite opinions, we're just differing a bit on the degree of implication.

My thinking was that, if I had actually called Tom, I'd be less likely to say 'I was to call Tom yesterday' and more likely to say 'I called Tom yesterday'.

With 'The shipment was to arrive one day ago', it's a slightly different example. I know whether or not I called Tom, but I may not know whether or not the shipment arrived. So, in the case of the shipment, it does less strongly suggest that it may not have arrived, suggesting instead that I just may not know.

Best wishes, Clive
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I agree. First person accounts have to be treated differently from third person accounts.

If I was to do something, I know whether I did it or not.
If someone else was to do something or something was to happen, I don't have any privileged first-person knowledge about it to rely on. Take this third-person remark as an example:

George was to be at the train station at 3 o'clock.

Supposing that I don't know if he made it there or not, there is no implication that he made it or did not make it there by 3. Everything about his arrival is speculation.

Someone asks Where is George? and I answer He was to be at the train station at 3. I say nothing here that suggests that he did not make it to the station, nor anything that suggests that he did. I only give a vague indication of what he's up to without commiting to the idea that he has fulfilled his obligation.

On the other hand, and similar to the first-person situation, if I know that he did not make it to the station on time (by 3), then, at least in my own mind, the implication is that he has not fulfilled his obligation, and my remark includes this judgment about his behavior. Nevertheless, if I know that he did make it to the station on time, then my remark is infelicitous: There is not much point in mentioning an obligation which I know has already been fulfilled. I should be saying, George was at the train station at 3 o'clock (Cf. Clive's example).

In short, some of the subtleties of such modal and semi-modal constructions depend on who knows what and when they know it! Emotion: smile Sorry, but, unfortunately, modality is dang complicated!

CJ
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