has/have been supposed to

Discussion in 'English Only' started by brian, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Hi all,

    I'm curious to know what my fellow native English speakers think about using supposed to <infinitive> in the present perfect. To set up the sentence, I'll explain what I mean by "present perfect" with a simple sentence pair:

    (1) My landlord is out of town.
    (2) My landlord has been out of town for 3 weeks.

    The verb is in (1) is present tense and describes the present situation, whereas the verb in (2) is present perfect and describes not only the present situation, but also something about the past (namely, that the present and past are the same in some respect). Both (1) and (2) are totally grammatical for me.

    What I'd like to know is, is it possible for any native English speakers out there to use supposed to in the present perfect? For example:

    (3) My landlord is supposed to fix the door.
    (4) My landlord has been supposed to fix the door for 3 weeks. :confused:

    To me, (3) sounds perfectly natural, but (4) sounds awful. In fact, I almost want to say something like (5).

    (5) My landlord has been supposing to fix the door for 3 weeks.

    But even that sounds terrible.

    It's a shame, but also fascinating, that this construction is ungrammatical for me: it's such a useful thing to say!

    Note also that the following are ungrammatical for me:

    (6) My landlord claimed to be supposed to go out of town.
    (7) My landlord might/could/should/must/would be supposed to go out of town.
    (8) My landlord will be supposed to go out of town.

    In other words, it seems that only the present tense (am/is/are) or simple past (was/were) of to be can combine with supposed to, and not the infinitive or any other tense.
     
  2. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Your sentence (4) doesn't sound great to me, either, Brian.

    I think most of us would say something like, "It's been three weeks, and my landlord still hasn't fixed the door." Or, if he or she had made some commitment: "My landlord has been promising for three weeks [or: promised three weeks ago] to fix the door."
     
  3. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    To me, sentence 4 sounds fine, but sentences 5, 6, 7, and 8 don't work.
     
  4. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Thank you both for your answers.

    I think I'd only say this if the person I'm talking to already knew that my landlord was supposed to fix the door, e.g. we talked about it last week. The way I'd probably express the idea is:

    My landlord said 3 weeks ago that he'd fix the door (but he still hasn't).
    It's been 3 weeks since my landlord said he'd fix the door.

    Right, or more generally has been meaning to fix the door. But these two options are, of course, slightly different from supposed to, which doesn't necessarily entail that the landlord wants or even intends to do anything.

    Interesting!

    I just thought of another construction we could look at: the conditional.

    (9) If my landlord is supposed to fix the door tomorrow, he'll probably come at 8:00 AM.
    (10) If my landlord had been supposed to fix the door yesterday, he probably would've come at 8:00 AM.

    As usual, (9) sounds totally fine, and (10) comparatively degraded. However, surprisingly, (10) here sounds much better than the other sentences -- but maybe I'm just getting used to reading these.
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I agree entirely with your judgements - including for (10) unfortunately, which put paid to a promising idea that as a kind of phrasal modal, 'is supposed to' only has finite forms - like the other modals, it has no participial or plain forms. Two more constructions to test, one of them tolerable to me:

    (11) If my landlord were supposed to fix the door, surely I would have known about it?
    (12) :cross:I insisted my landlord be supposed to fix the door.
     
  6. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I'd certainly say "My landlord is supposed to have fixed the door".

    To add the "three weeks" I might say:
    "My landlord is supposed to have fixed the door three weeks ago"
    but I'd be more likely to say:
    "My landlord was supposed to fix the door three weeks ago".

    I don't think either of these is what Brian's looking for...
     

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