Macmillan dictionary defines to be supposed to do something as

to be expected or intended to happen in a particular way or to have a particular result

Consider this expression

You are not expected to do this stuff.

It means that no one expects you to do this thing as this does not align with your work.

If I use supposed to instead of expected to

You are not supposed to do this stuff.

It might mean that if you do this stuff, this might be against the rules and you might be fined.

My question is that do supposed to and expected to mean the same thing? If not what are the context where they do?

  • They really are not very different in meaning. I would even go so far as to say they are synonyms in most cases. The usage is sometimes different in that "supposed to" is often taken to mean "must" or "should" taking the place of the phrase "have to".
    – Anton
    Feb 18 '16 at 16:28

Interesting question. When the two are used in the affirmative sense, I'd say they are relatively synonymous.

You are expected to wash your hands before you start cooking.
You are supposed to wash your hands before you start cooking.

Both of these mean that you should wash your hands before you start cooking.

However, in the negative sense, the two have very different meanings. "Not expected to" means that you don't have to do something; "not supposed to" means that you shouldn't do something. The latter (not supposed to) means it's prohibited, the former (not expected to) means it's an option.

You're not expected to wash the dishes before you go out.

means that you don't have to do it. Nobody will mind if you do, but you can feel free to go out without washing the dishes first. However,

You're not supposed to go out without washing the dishes first.

means that you shouldn't leave until the dishes are washed – there could be negative consequences if you do.

  • J.R. your answer is excellent except that I strongly suggest changing "slightly different" to "completely different" or some such revision. Do you not agree that the meanings are completely different in the negative? Mar 1 '13 at 12:53
  • @ShawnMooney: Good suggestion, thanks. I've made an edit.
    – J.R.
    Mar 1 '13 at 15:38
  • 5
    I think it might be helpful to contrast "not expected to" with "expected not to". The latter means the same thing as "not supposed to" in the context above.
    – user230
    Mar 1 '13 at 17:13

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