Hi again.

I've been watching series for a while and I heard sentences like "He's not to be trusted.", "You're to meet him today" etc.

I've never encountered this before so it's entirely new to me and I'm kind of confused. I really can't explain the strage feeling I have. To me, it seems that there's something missing in this kind of sentences.

Please could someone explain this to me?

Thanks.
HardellHi again.

I've been watching series for a while and I heard sentences like "He's not to be trusted.", "You're to meet him today" etc.

Thanks.
Hi,

As far as I know they are both correct usage. It's often used to talk about plans and arrangements, orders and fate.

- The President is to meet the Prime Minister of India tomorrow. (arrangement)

- You are to come home right away! (order)

- We said farewell to each other. But little did I know we were to meet again 10 years later. (fate)

Maybe your confusion arises from the fact that it is often restricted to formal usage? – so I've been told. Also, the incomplete and derived form is often used in newspaper headllines.

e.g. Headline: Bin Laden pictures (?) to be released this Friday.

Here, 'are' has been omitted. (The) Bin Laden pictures (are) to be released this Friday.

Hope this was helpful.Emotion: smile

- DJB -
This pattern consists of a form of be followed directly by an infinitive, thus: is to go, was to see, were to find, am to drive, etc. (not may intervene: is not to go, was not to see, etc.) There are various paraphrases, for example, is to meet may be recast as is supposed to meet, is going to meet, will meet, should meet, etc.

He is not to be trusted. ~ He should not be trusted. ~ You should not trust him. ~ He does not deserve to be trusted. ~ It is not a good idea to trust him.

You're to meet him today. ~ You are supposed to meet him today. ~ (According to the schedule,) you will meet him today.

CJ
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Thank you.

I was confused because there's actually no verb that would define how the subject should be 'affected' by the second part of the sentence. (Sorry, I can't explain it better)

As you wrote; "He is not to be trusted" can be recast as "He should not be trusted". I was confused because was no verb after the inflected "to be".

And could somebody confirm that it is used only in formal language? (As dokterjokkebrok said)
HardellAnd could somebody confirm that it is used only in formal language?
I would say it differently. I would say that it is not used in casual conversation. However, you may find it in contexts which are not really formal, especially in journalism and in novels, as well as in truly very formal contexts such as presidential speeches. Personally, I think I've seen the "be to" construction in news articles more than anywhere else.

CJ
HardellI was confused because there's actually no verb that would define how the subject should be 'affected' by the second part of the sentence. (Sorry, I can't explain it better)
The idea of the subject being 'affected' by everything following is it part of the old subject/predicate theory of grammar. I remember being taught this in elementary school, but as far as I know, most grammar guides and such have quit using it (it wasn't correct for most sentences although it did work well as a description of a couple of types).
HardellAs you wrote; "He is not to be trusted" can be recast as "He should not be trusted". I was confused because there was no verb after the inflected "to be".
Be careful to account for all the components of the sentence when looking for the 'job' of the individual pieces. Your example "You're to meet him today," and Dok's example "The President is to meet the Prime Minister of India tomorrow," are both in the active voice meaning that 'you' and 'the President' are the subjects.

But your example "He's not to be trusted," and Jim's alternative "He should not be trusted," are both in the passive voice. So in these latter two examples, there is an 'extra' BE (acting as a vocal auxiliary) compared to the active voice examples.

So consider each one:

"You're to meet him today." You (subject) 're ('are' modal auxiliary 'be' showing neutral tense (meaning it doesn't express a tense at all), agreeing with the subject you for subject and number (2nd person singular), to meet (meet is the 'idea verb' (I use the term 'vector') and when 'be' is used as a modal, it requires the verb that follows it to have 'to' in front of it), him (direct object, the person you are supposed to meet), today (sets the tense as future -- when the first auxiliary is unmarked for tense and no other time information is given, it expresses present tense; when it is unmarked for tense and a future time phrase or future adverb (in this case 'today' meaning sometime during this day after now), then future tense is expressed).

"The President is to meet the Prime Minister of India tomorrow." The President (subject) is (modal auxiliary BE marked for agreement with the subject - 3rd person singular - and unmarked for tense) to meet (exactly the same as the first example) the Prime Minister of India (direct object) tomorrow (as with the first example, a future marking adverb is combined with the neutral tense auxiliary to form the future tense).

"He's not to be trusted." He (Subject, but because this is the passive voice, the subject is the target of the verbs and not the source -- in other words the verb is acting upon the subject rather than the subject doing the action of the verb) 's ('is' as with the first two examples this is the modal auxiliary BE and is unmarked for tense, and agrees with the subject 'he' for person and number - 3rd person singular again) not (negative marker -- means that everything to the right of 'not' is now negative) to be (BE used as a vocal auxiliary expressing passive voice. When used as a vocal auxiliary BE always takes on the form of the equivalent active voice verb. In this sentence that verb would be 'trust'. Because vocal auxiliary BE follows modal auxiliary BE, and modal auxiliary BE requires that the verb immediately following it take on a 'to', it means that the vocal auxiliary has to take on the form 'to be') trusted (the vector or 'idea verb' which must be in the past participle form because it follows the vocal auxiliary BE (which always requires the verb immediately following it to be in past participle form). The idea ('by you') is understood to come at the end of this sentence but is normally omitted. Finally, because there is no other time phrase or adverb in the sentence, the first auxiliary 'is' which was unmarked for tense is expressing the present tense.

"He should not be trusted." This sentence has nearly the same meaning as the previous one. However, by changing the modal auxiliary BE to the modal auxiliary SHOULD some other forms had to change. Observe: He (Subject, but because this is the passive voice, the subject is the target of the verbs and not the source -- in other words the verb is acting upon the subject rather than the subject doing the action of the verb) should (modal auxiliary SHOULD is unmarked for tense. With should, tense is determined by context or by the form of the verbs that follow it (see the end of the paragraph), and agrees with the subject 'he' for person and number - 3rd person singular but since the type of modal that should belongs to is the same in every form, there is no special 'he form') not (negative marker -- means that everything to the right of 'not' is now negative) be (BE used as a vocal auxiliary expressing passive voice. When used as a vocal auxiliary BE always takes on the form of the equivalent active voice verb. In this sentence that verb would be 'trust'. Because vocal auxiliary BE follows modal auxiliary SHOULD, and SHOULD requires that the verb immediately following it not take on a 'to', it means that the vocal auxiliary simply takes on the form 'be') trusted (the vector or 'idea verb' which must be in the past participle form because it follows the vocal auxiliary BE (which always requires the verb immediately following it to be in past participle form). The idea ('by you') is understood to come at the end of this sentence but is normally omitted. The tense of this sentence is present. Often SHOULD represents the future, but in this usage it's present (although it's not limiting the statement from being true in the future as well). With modals, tense is determined by contrasting the time that the sentence is said/written with the earliest time at which the idea expressed (in this case that 'he' should not be trusted) may be evaluated as true or not. Because the speaker of this sentence has a reason to believe 'he' is untrustworthy when the sentence is originally said/written, it is assumed that the person to whom the sentence is directed can weigh the evidence at that moment and decide whether 'he' is trustworthy and thus whether the idea that 'he should not be trusted' is true or not. Because the sentence is said 'now' and that idea can be evaluated as true or not 'now' the sentence is present tense. For should to be used in past tense, a perfected verb must be used ("He should not have been trusted" -- perfected means complete so the 'trusting' has already happened and been finished and the idea that 'he' is not trustworthy is based on some outcome that has already occurred before 'now').

Now, knowing what each of the BE's are being used for in the four above examples, are you still confused?

HardellAnd could somebody confirm that it is used only in formal language? (As dokterjokkebrok said)
Whether something is formal or not varies from person to person. Many people have no formal/informal registers and use the same forms all the time. In certain dialects it is common to have huge differences in vocabulary and grammar depending on the social situation. Some people actually have a very limited 'familiar register' (used with friends and family), a spoken informal register, (used in everyday speech perhaps at school or work), a spoken formal register (used for public speaking or in situations where they are overtly concerned how others may perceive them), and a written formal register (which is as close as they get to 'prescriptive' or officially correct forms and generally has a broader vocabulary than their other registers).

Most people where I am from (Louisiana) don't have separate registers at all. Our written and spoken grammar and vocabulary is the same regardless of circumstances. I don't think we are the norm though as I and others I know from here have often been asked if we're native speakers or not online because our choice of vocabulary or forms seems overly formal or archaic to many people.

That said, I hear these forms all the time and only sometimes is it used in a very formal context.
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HardellI've been watching series for a while and I heard sentences like "He's not to be trusted."
It's quite simple really. The predicative complement (in bold) of "be" is a non-finite clause which ascribes the quality of being untrustworthy to "he", meaning "He is untrustworthy" where "untrustworthy" is an adjective. Compare: "He is lazy/useless/untalented/unreliable - all adjectives.

Hardell"You're to meet him today
This is slightly different. It's a special use of the verb "be" called the 'quasi-modal be'. The complement (in bold) is a non-finite clause which refers to an agenda, or plan, in which it's intended that "you" shall meet "him" today.

BillJ
BillJIt's quite simple really. The predicative complement (in bold) of "be" is a non-finite clause which ascribes the quality of being untrustworthy to "he", meaning "He is untrustworthy" where "untrustworthy" is an adjective. Compare: "He is lazy/useless/untalented/unreliable - all adjectives.
That's not simple at all! It's a totally incorrect analysis of that sentence. 'Be' is not being used as a copular verb here. If it were, the sentence would simply be structured as "He is untrustworthy". Had they meant to say that, that's how it would have likely been worded. They did not word it that way because it's not what they meant to say. 'Be' in the original example is a modal auxiliary. This results in the form 'to be trusted'.

You're completely ignoring the fact that the original sentence is in the passive voice:

"He is not to be trusted (by you)."

The active voice version would be:

"You are not to trust him."

If your line of thinking that "not to be trusted" is a predicative complement, then that would mean that in the active voice version either 'you' = 'not to trust him' or 'not to be trusted' is an adjective describing 'you'. Both are impossible because the analysis is absolutely incorrect.
BillJ
Hardell"You're to meet him today
This is slightly different. It's a special use of the verb "be" called the 'quasi-modal be'. The complement (in bold) is a non-finite clause which refers to an agenda, or plan, in which it's intended that "you" shall meet "him" today.
No, it's the exact same usage. It's not a special use, and it's not a 'quasi-modal' because there is no such thing (something is either a modal or it is not -- if it expresses a mood, it's a modal). It is a use of 'be' as a modal auxiliary which can express multiple moods depending on context. These moods do not always involve an agenda or a plan nor are they always equivalent to 'shall'.