In Grammar By Victoria

The modal verb TO BE TO

The modal verb to be to can be used in two time dimensions: the present and the past. Accordingly, the forms will be appropriate. If it is now, we choose among — I am to, he / she / it is to, you / we / they are to. When we need the past time, we use two options was to (a single number), were to (plural). And what if we have to express some thoughts in the future tense? In this case, we have the support of a modal verb have to.

The meaning of the modal verb to be to it is that the presence of the verb in a sentence implies prior mutual agreement on the need to perform any action. Therefore, the translation of the modal verb will rely on such language as «agreed», «agreed», «was obliged», «destined», «collect», etc. This can very clearly see on the examples:

We are to decide it right now. — We have to decide this right now.

Who is to do the talking today? — Who now will carry on a conversation?

What am I to tell my parents? — Well, what am I going to talk to parents?

It was the last ceremony I was to see. — It was the last ceremony that I had (it was to) see.

She could not decide whether the letter was to be answered or not. — She could not decide whether she was a reply to the letter or not.

The film was to be dubbed later. — The film must have been duplicated later.

Will I see you again? — It’s likely. I am to be at the hotel for another week. — Will I see you again? — Likely. I need to stay in a hotel for a week.

They will have to meet at the theatre. — They agreed to meet in the theater.

Please note that if after a modal verb to be to perfect infinitive is used, it is understood that the action was originally planned, but, unfortunately, has not been fulfilled.

Who was to have done the shopping? — Well, someone had to go shopping? (and no one went)

The detective was to have carried out an investigation but the circumstances changed. — This detective had to conduct an investigation, but the circumstances have changed. (and it does not lead the investigation)

What else expresses modal verb to be to?

In addition to its core values, modal verb to be to be applied to the expression:

  1. Order

    You are to report to the captain. — You should inform the captain.

  2. Ban (negative supply)

    You are not to tell anyone about it! — You should not say it to anyone!

  3. The issue of further guidance or instructions (in interrogative sentences)

    What am I to do, Sir? — What should I do, sir?

This topic is closely related to the other as described in the articles that need to pay attention:

  • «Modal verb MUST»
  • «The modal verb HAVE TO»
  • «The modal verb NEED»
  • «Should, must or have to — a modal verb to choose? »
  • «The modal verb SHALL (SHOULD)»

After reading them, we recommend to pass the following test: «Test # 2 on the use of modal verbs in the English language.»



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