grammatical expression: be supposed to


Today, I’d like to write about “supposed to” which is often misunderstood. Basically, it means to be expected, but it can be used in different situations:

1. used when talking about previously arranged plans. For example:

I’m supposed to meet my friend at the station at 9:00 pm.

I’m sorry, but I can’t have dinner with you tonight. My friends and I are supposed to see a movie together.

2. used when talking about duties at home or at work. For example:

I’m supposed to help my mother cook dinner tonight.

I’m supposed to have a meeting with my boss at 3:00 pm.

Aren’t you supposed to be writing your report now? (This means the person is not writing the report but they should be).

3. used to relate information that someone told you. For example:

Mr. Taylor is supposed to be back at 3:30. (This means I was told he would be back at 3:30).

This machine is supposed to cook meat in less than five minutes. (This means I was told it would cook meat in less than five minutes).

4. used to talk about things you have heard about but not experienced directly

We should go to the new Thai restaurant downtown. It’s supposed to be fantastic!

I really want to go to the jazz club to hear Sarah Browning. She’s supposed to be an amazing singer!

5. used to talk about rules which are not always followed. For example:

We’re supposed to get to work by 9:00 a.m. every morning.

I’m not supposed to eat or drink at my desk, but sometimes I do.

6. used, in the past tense, to indicate things that were expected but did not happen. For example:

My friend was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago, but he’s still not here.

That movie was supposed to be great, but it wasn’t.

That test wasn’t supposed to be so difficult, but it was.


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