Consider the following two sentences:

Council is to visit this place in the next year.


Council is visiting this place in the next year.

Any of them denotes an action, which is planned. What is point of difference between them?

2 Answers 2


Both are okay. Both show that the action is planned and likely to happen.

The be to + infinitive structure is generally used to discuss formal or official arrangements or to give formal instructions or orders. The BBC describes it further that --it is also frequently used in newspaper, radio and television reports to refer to future events. It expresses near certainty that what is forecast will happen.

On the other hand, the present continuous is also used when the things are pretty sure to happen.

The train is leaving the platform in ten minutes.

  • I agree with you but I think that the first grammatical structure conveys a stronger certainty than the second case.+1 Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:13
  • That is, it is more naturally to use in speaking present progressive instead of to be + infinitive for planned action. Am I understand you correctly? Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:13
  • As I said, both are okay. But here is my take - I'd prefer using present continuous when the event is quite near!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:17
  • As a side note, in our dialect (InE), the be to + in structure involves probability. On the other hand, is..ing in such context reflects surety.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:20
  • 1
    @DmitryFucintv No. The train is *about...* would inject probability again. The train is leaving...in ... talks about the event sure to happen.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 7:38

"S is to V" has several uses:

  • it can announce a plan or make an assertion as to the future (as in your example)
  • it can give an instruction (as Maulik specified) (this is also compatible with your example--it depends on who is talking to whom)
  • it can specify a general guideline or open-ended duty

    Students are to wash their hands after they have come in from outside.

The second construction can only play the first of these roles.

It's actually the first construction that expresses less certainty than the first. It is the appropriate one to use when reporting other people's plans/predictions, without making a subjective commitment about whether you believe that plan/prediction is likely to come true.

It is for this reason that a journalist is more likely to say "The government is to start building the subway next year" than "The government will start building the subway next year" if there is any doubt about whether the building will occur.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .