Be to + infinitive / Be to + passive infinitive

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New Member
Hi everybody,

I was studying the use of the present tenses for the future and I found that:

"We use be to for a future event that is officially arranged. It is often used in news reports."

Even if the grammar book says it I still find some of this examples very odd:

- Taxes are to go up from next April.
- The US president is to visit Ireland in the new year.
- The talks on world trade are to take place later this year.

But then, trying to find some more information about it I read this:

"Be to + passive infinitive is sometimes used to show that a planned event did not materialise."

- Sammy was to have married Sarah but then Jamie came along and the engagement ring he had given was returned.
- They were to have picked strawberries this morning, but the torrential overnight rain made the field too muddy.

Are these two sentences correct? And what is passive infinitive? Does it refers to the present perfect? Because I've never heard about it.
  • ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Welcome aboard, eddyStudent! In the present, "is to [take place, be held, etc] = "is scheduled/planned to [take place, be held, etc]"; in the past, it does usually mean that, contrary to what had been expected, it didn't come off.


    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Remember that in English (unlike in Spanish), the infinitive is usually formed with "to" + the verb:
    to do
    to eat
    to write
    to walk

    A passive infinitve is formed by "to" + "be" + the past participle:
    to be done
    to be eaten
    to be written
    to be walked

    I would not call "have married" or "have picked" the passive infiinitive.


    New Member
    Thank you ain'ttranslationfun?, Mahantongo!

    By the way, my mistake about the passive infinitive. In fact, when they are talking about this example: "They were to have picked strawberries this morning...", they call it be to + perfect infinitive. On the other hand, Be to + passive infinitive, they say, would be used like this: "To be taken three times a day after meals", as Mahantongo says.

    Moreover, I think I've found another form of be to + infinitive used in the past:

    "[...] it seemed to the doctor, in a steady silent glare of what he was never to know was actual clairvoyance, that they had both paused..."

    Could you tell me what does it exactly mean? And if is it often used in current speech?

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