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This is the sentence:

Clare Atkins was to write two more books about her experiences in Africa before her death in 1967.

Did she write the books? Or did she intend to write them, but she died before she could write them?

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    You can use this pattern to talk about a past plan.
    – user178049
    Feb 15 '17 at 10:09
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When referring to was to you mean someone had the intention to do it, but for whatever reason failed to do so. The 'before her death in 1967' indicates she had the intention to write the books but she died before she could do so.

If you say wrote, it is a fact that someone has written something and it has already happened.

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    Thanks, but I have found that it has different meaning look at this : Mr Jones was to speak at the meeting. (it was arranged and he did) according to grammaring.com/be-to-infinitive
    – Alper
    Feb 15 '17 at 10:33
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It is also a way of saying "went on to write two more books". The books were not merely planned, but completed. At the time we are now speaking of (in our narrative), those two books were in her future. An example. And another.

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In the sentence

Clare Atkins was to write two more books about her experiences in Africa before her death in 1967.

was to write means that she intended or planned to write the books. On the other hand, she wrote means that she completed the action or the plan. Also, the sentence alone does not help infer if she died without writing or not. In literature, if she had completed the 2 books, the sentence would have been:

Clare Atkins went on to write two more books about her experiences in Africa before her death in 1967.

This sentence would imply that she did indeed write the books. Although the first sentence does point to her having planned to write the books and dying before having written them, it's not explicitly stated. A supporting sentence in either direction can alter the meaning of the sentence. For e.g.:

  1. Clare Atkins was to write two more books about her experiences in Africa before her death in 1967. She did complete both the books, as planned.
  2. Clare Atkins was to write two more books about her experiences in Africa before her death in 1967. Unfortunately, she could not live to complete both the books.
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    You mean to say that the sentence does not imply, not "infer". Feb 15 '17 at 12:57
  • @TRomano I meant that the sentence does not infer, not "imply", the sentence implies that the author died before writing the books, but it does not infer it, that is, it does not come to that decision explicitly. Feb 16 '17 at 4:53
  • The phrase "infer if" is ungrammatical, and you're using the word infer incorrectly. If there is a half-finished but still hot cup of coffee on the kitchen table, you can infer that someone had been there recently, drinking it. The cup of coffee does not do the inferring. Feb 16 '17 at 10:38
  • @TRomano, you are right. I made edit to reflect that. Thanks Feb 16 '17 at 14:12

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