1

Everyone, can these sentences have different meanings?

  1. I was going to leave yesterday.
    1. It means I just decided to leave, no idea at what time.
    2. It means " leave" was planned to happen yesterday.
  2. I was leaving yesterday.
    1. Can this one have different meanings?
    2. If not, why? The time of "leaving" is clear?
  3. I would leave yesterday.
    1. Can this one have different meanings?
    2. The time of "leaving" is clear?
  4. I was about/due to leave yesterday.
    1. Can this one have different meanings?
    2. The time of "leave" is clear?
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "the time of 'leave' is clear?" The sentence says "yesterday", so it means you were going to leave at some point yesterday. Can you explain exactly what you mean? – stangdon Oct 6 '16 at 22:10
1

All of these are sentence fragments that require more information to complete, but with that in mind:

I was going to leave yesterday.

I had planned to leave yesterday (but I didn't).

I was leaving yesterday.

I was on my way out the door (when something happened)

I would leave yesterday.

This doesn't make sense since "would" (in this case) indicates future potential action. "I would have left yesterday" is probably what you want, which means "I had every intention of leaving yesterday (but something prevented me)."

I was about/due to leave yesterday.

"Due to" and "About to" have slightly different meanings. "I was about to leave yesterday means "I was on the verge of leaving (when something happened)"

Meanwhile "I was due to leave yesterday" means "I planned to leave yesterday (but something happened)"

1

Before I answer, I'm going to correct your 3rd example to:

  1. I would have left yesterday.

"I would leave yesterday." does not make sense because "would leave" is present and "yesterday" implies that the action is in the past.

After making that correction, all four of the examples you provided do mean approximately the same thing. They are all used to state the circumstances that surround a statement made about the past. Stated alone, none of the four form a complete thought. They all require an additional clause that explains what happened afterward. That being said, 1, 3, and 4 are approximately the same (the only differences being in nuance) and 2 is different.

1. I was going to leave yesterday
This expression implies that you decided to leave at some point in the past, you were just about to actually leave, and something stopped you. It is almost always followed by "but". In addition, this expression has a slight "blame shifting" nuance to it.

I was going to leave yesterday, but I couldn't find my car keys.

I was going to leave yesterday, but I had too much work to do.

3. I would have left yesterday
This expression also implies that you decided to leave at some point in the past (unclear about when) and that the leaving did not happen. This is very similar to "was going to leave" but slightly different.

  1. "was going to leave" sounds like you are about to start a story, "would have left" sounds like you are about to state a reason.

  2. "would have left yesterday" conclusively states that you did not leave "yesterday". "Was going to leave" suggests that you did not leave "yesterday" but is only explicit about the specific instance in the main clause. It leaves the possibility that you left later in the day open.

  3. "would have left" is not clear about the time that you decided to not leave. "Was going to leave" suggests that you decided to not leave at the last minute (right before you actually left).

"Would have left" is almost always followed by "but".

I would have left yesterday, but my car was stolen.

4. I was about to leave yesterday
This is interchangeable with #1. The only difference (and it is a small one) is that #4 sounds like you were a little closer to actually leaving than #1.

I was due to leave yesterday is much closer to #3 than #4. They both are not explicit about when you decided not to leave, they both are usually followed by "but", and they both conclusively state that you did not leave yesterday. As far as differences, "I was due to leave" is rather formal sounding. It has a feeling that you are abiding by a schedule set by someone else. It doesn't come up in non-business conversation often.

2. I was leaving yesterday.
The first three examples have a strong contradicting tone. They all imply that you did not actually leave. This one implies that you did in fact leave (but bear in mind, it doesn't imply that you got very far). It is usually followed by "when".

So to summarize, we can approximately order the 5 expressions by the time you decided to not leave (earliest first). I'll use the image of a man about to leave his house to illustrate (bear in mind that in actual usage, the time frames can blur).

  1. "would have left", "was due to leave" - (not explicit about when)

  2. "was going to leave" - the man walked up to his door and changed his mind.

  3. "was about to leave" - the man opened his door, started to take his first step out, then changed his mind.

  4. "was leaving" - the man succeeded in taking his first step out and is somewhere between his door and out of his driveway.

  • Thanks so much for your careful help!!!! But If I say:" Now, I'm going to leave" Is it possible to mean "I just decided to leave, maybe I will leave next week" – moyeea Oct 6 '16 at 22:35
  • The use of the word "now" implies that you intend to leave immediately. So no. If you just said, "I'm going to leave", then the timing is unclear and can mean soon or next year. – G-Cam Oct 7 '16 at 2:06
  • Thanks so much!!!But just one question, can I say: Tomorrow, I'm going to leave.? – moyeea Oct 7 '16 at 8:38
  • Yes. In the most general sense, the expression "going to" conveys intention. "Was going to" implies that you had an intention in the past, but it never turned into an actual action (if it had, you instead would be speaking of it as an action rather than an intention). "Now, I'm going to leave" states that you intend to leave "now". Tomorrow, I'm going to leave" states that you are going to leave tomorrow. – G-Cam Oct 7 '16 at 12:13

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