In general, the changes they had made were to be welcomed.

In general, the changes they had made were welcomed.

What's the difference between them? (were to be VS. were)

  • I think including to be in the past tense is peculiar. In the present tense, "Your advice is to be welcomed" is effectively just circumlocution (the literal meaning being We should be glad to have your advice serves as a slightly formal / oblique version of We welcome your advice / We are grateful for it). I just don't see how that sense works in the past tense. Commented May 5 at 23:19
  • What's the context here? Usually, I would hear a construction like this in a history documentary talking about history that happened later, out of scope of the history documentary. 'This was to be the largest empire for more than 500 years, until the time of...'
    – Kaia
    Commented May 6 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


Taking the second example first, "... were welcomed." describes what happened. The changes were welcomed - some people approved of them.

Now, the first example, "... were to be welcomed." That can mean two different things.

  1. The writer is taking a past perspective, saying the changes were welcomed at some time after they were made.
  2. The writer is saying that the changes were worthwhile and should have been welcomed.

A longer excerpt might clarify exactly what was meant by "were to be welcomed."

  • "should have been welcomed" in your answer implies the changes were not welcomed?
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 5 at 23:16
  • I don't think so. It could be either way, depending on the surrounding text. Commented May 5 at 23:23
  • Past tense of 'to be' like was/were + to-infinitive could mean both situations: something was done and something was not done? Or It only means something was done? ex) I read this example of "Mr Jones was to speak at the meeting. (it was arranged and he did)".
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 5 at 23:31
  • You don't have to make a comment. I now understand past verb of ['to be'+to-infinitive] means 'most likely happened'.
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 6 at 0:06
  • @gomadeng No, BE + to be + PP (past participle, not infinitive – it’s a passive form) does not mean ‘most likely happened’. It can mean either that (1) the passive verb was planned to occur (it was arranged that Mr Jones should speak at the meeting); or (2) that it is the speakers belief that the verb should occur (e.g., “What Mr Jones did was brave, and he is to be applauded for it” = he should be applauded). Both cases are neutral as to whether or not it actually did occur. If anything, (1) slightly implies that it didn’t happen – why else mention the plan instead of the reality? Commented May 6 at 11:51

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