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Thread: "was to"

  1. #1
    velimir is offline Member
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    "was to"

    Hello everybody,

    Here is a report from the news about the recent tragic incident in Finland:

    He was a legal gun-owner: he had a licence, having joined a shooting club recently. He had also posted chilling videos on the internet,warning of what was to happen.

    I've already been given the explanation here on forum about the usage of "was to" and similar forms as forms that usually have an implication of "an obligation imposed on the subject".I understand that it means that "was to" is similar in meaning to "must' but a bit more moderate and used in situations when it is needed to stress that the obligation is imposed. This obviously is not an example of a usual usage since that dreadly act wasn't imposed on him to commit,so I wonder what it mean in the given context.

    Thanks
    Last edited by velimir; 09-Nov-2007 at 14:35.

  2. #2
    finta is offline Junior Member
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    Re: "was to"

    Hello velimir!

    It's like reported speech. Nothing to do with obligation.

    This is a warning of what is going to happen (a present warning about the future).

    That was a warning of what was going to happen (both the warning and the event have happened).

    Hope this helps.

    finta

  3. #3
    velimir is offline Member
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    Re: "was to"

    Thanks a lot for your answer Finta. It has helped but still I would like if you could give some additional explanation.
    Is it then idiomatic to leave out "going" when expressing an intention in the past, and is it possible to do the same thing in present form and still retain the meaning as in the past ? For example,if I'm threatening can I say :

    Bad things is to happen to you if you keep on teasing me.

    and if I backshifted the sentence :

    I warned him that bad things was to happen to him if he kept on teasing me.

    Also,if I replaced "was to" with "would" in the sentence reported in the previous post would you point out a difference which would in that case happen in the meaning of the sentence. If "was to" is altogether interchangeable with "would" in this case , of course.

    Best regards

  4. #4
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "was to"

    Dear Vilimir,

    I'll try one's hand at sharing my notion concerning the mentioned above problems which you have brought up for discussion.

    I think that it would be better if we speak in the beginning about "to be + Infinitive" instead of "was to".

    To be + Infinitive is a modal expression. Some of its meaning are close to those of modal verbs and expressions denoting obligation: must, should, ought, to have + Infinitive. (please, see the finta's post ("Nothing to do with obligation").

    This modal expression can be used in two tenses: the Present Indefinite and the Past Indefinite (was, were).

    Dear Jim. I'm to be shot at sunrise tomorrow.
    They were to go to Spain for the honeymoon.

    To be + Infinitive expresses a weakened oder, an arrangement, possibility, something thought of as unavoidable.

    1. An order which is generally the result of an arrangement made by one person for another, an arrangement which is not to be discussed.

    You are to go straight to your room. You are to say nothing of this to anyone.

    2. An arrangement or agreement, part of a plan. In this meaning both the Indefinite and the Perfect Infinitive can be used; the Perfect Infinitive shows that the action was not carried out.

    I'm sorry,Major, we had an agreement- I was to do the questioning here.

    We were to meet at the entrance of the theater at a quarter to eight.

    3. Possibility

    For a long time neither was to be seen about their old haunts.

    How were they to know that you are well connected if you do not show it by your costume?
    (are well connected = connected by blood or close acquaintance with people of wealth or social position).

    4. Something thought of as unavoidable.

    Sally wished Morris could be on the same terms of easy friendliness with her as he was with everybody else. But evidently, it was not to be.

    I went about brooding over my lot, wondering almost hourly what was to become of me.

    This all is written in my book, and I am prone to think that this is the true and not the far-fetched suppositions.

    Regards.

    V.

  5. #5
    velimir is offline Member
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    Re: "was to"

    Thanks Vil for your answer. The explanation is clear but I don't see that any of offered solutions match the meaning conveyed in the sentence from the news,that is the problem. I know that the main use of "is to be" construction is to convey an obligation imposed on somebody but quoted usage doesn't fit in that meaning.

    Thanks

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