Supposing that I and a friend are talking about football and then we discover that another friend of ours is listening to our talk.Which one is the best? Do these sentences mean the same?

  1. You weren't even supposed to hear what we are talking about

  2. It wasn't even supposed for you to hear what we are talking about

  3. You should not even be hearing our conversation

Perhaps in sentences 1 and 2 should be "we WERE" instead of "we are", but I am not sure.


2 Answers 2


The second sentence has a construction that is not standard: "to be supposed for someone to".

The third shows the use of a progressive tense for "hear", whereas this is not normal usage. (OALD)

  • You should not even be allowed to hear our conversation.

The first sentence is correct and you can use either "are" (if the conversation goes on or if you choose to imply what has been said up to the present) or "were" (if the conversation is finished).

  • Are you discounting the third sentence because "to be hearing" isn't in your dictionary examples? It's perfectly acceptable and correct. They mean different things.
    – Valkor
    Jan 22, 2021 at 11:30
  • @Valkor No, it's not just examples, the dictionary says "not used in the continuous tenses".
    – LPH
    Jan 22, 2021 at 11:34
  • Related question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/150616/…
    – Valkor
    Jan 22, 2021 at 11:43
  • @Valkor From the leading answer in that question: He is seeing the blue sky. All of the above sentences would be considered as being either ungrammatical or nonstandard English by most prescriptive grammar books. And I would avoid saying these type of phrases myself. // This is according to what the dictionary I used is saying. Maybe there is a difference between the several variants of English, although this dictionary usually mentions that.
    – LPH
    Jan 22, 2021 at 11:51
  • At the risk of turning this into a discussion, I will point out that the very next sentence described the construction as unusual but not prohibited, and the Wikipedia link says it's not generally used, but sometimes used. It's not normal, but it is useful, as I described in my answer.
    – Valkor
    Jan 22, 2021 at 12:32

Sentence one and three are both grammatically correct, but they mean different things. The first sentence suggests that your friend shouldn't be able to understand your conversation. The third sentence suggests that your friend shouldn't even be able to hear the sound you are making.

The "best" sentence depends on which you are trying to say.

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