The modal verb “to Be to” in English

То be to as a modal verb has two tenses: the Present and Past Indefinite. It expresses the following meanings:

  • Necessity due to a plan or some kind of previous ar­rangement
    • He is to come at exactly five
    • She was to phone after dinner

NOTE: A perfect infinitive after the verb to be shows that the action had been planned but wasn’t carried out

    • He was to have come at seven and now it’s already nine (He didn’t come)
  • Strict orders, formal commands or formal instruc­tions
    • You are to report to the Captain.
  • Strict prohibitions
    • You are not to tell anybody about it
  • Something that is destined to happen
    • It was to happen. She was to become his wife
    • If we are to be neighbours for life, we should be on friend­ly terms
  • Asking for instructions
    • What are we to do?
    • Where am I to go?
  • It is very close to can and may
    • Where is he to be found?
    • Nothing was to be done
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