I found this examples in my grammar book.

John is supposed to have helped Mary with shopping.

It was supposed to be warm today.

Both sentences are translated that something was about to happen but ultimately it didn't. So my question is if the first sentence could be written as

John was supposed to help Mary with shopping.

  • 1
    Not only can the question be rewritten in the manner you suggest, but I think it also sounds more natural. Most native speakers would probably say it using your wording. – J.R. May 4 '14 at 9:54

You are right!

Since the sentence uses have helped, the suppose to phrase can be rewritten the way you said.

John was supposed to help Mary with shopping.

In such context, the phrase supposed to is used for the action that actually does not happen. EnglishGrammarSecrets mentions it:

Often there is a suggestion that the action 'supposed to' happen does not actually happen.

I'm supposed to be there before 8 but I'm often late.
You were supposed to phone me.
I'm supposed to be getting on a plane to Tokyo at this very minute.

Mind it that if you use be supposed to without mentioning any action in past, the meaning changes. It then represents something which is expected. Good tutorial here.

| improve this answer | |
  • However, "supposed to have helped" is a state of being. While rewording the sentence mostly conveys the same meaning, it does change things a bit. If you are "supposed to have" done something, the implication is that your current state of existence is one in which you should have done something as opposed to simply stating that you did something in the past and it's unrelated to your current state. – sraboy May 5 '14 at 19:02

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