What is the difference in the meaning between following sentences:

  1. John was to have picked strawberries yesterday but the downpour made the field too muddy.

  2. John was to pick strawberries yesterday but the downpour made the field too muddy.

(Source: modified example from BBC)

I've read in Learn English BBC that the form "was to" and "was to have" is used for past plan which wasn't fullfiled. But What I haven't understood is that these form look similar to me. I'm in a dillema which one (was to, or was to have) is used for past plan and which one is for unfullfilled past plan.

So, what is the differences between the construction was/were to ... and was/were to have + past participle?

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    Do not edit your question to ask a different one. I have rolled this back to the original question. – Alan Carmack May 29 '16 at 13:20
  • I highly suggest reading about the grammar of verbs and about verb tenses and constructions at The English Club. Reading a systematic overview of these things will help you more than asking about random differences. – Alan Carmack May 29 '16 at 13:48
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    No one here has to (must) write an answer to any question. If you have the feeling you are being ignored, you might want to consider asking fewer or more varied questions. If you expect detailed analytical answers (with examples) to each question you have, you could consider hiring a tutor. – Alan Carmack May 29 '16 at 14:51
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    Also, if you are going to write similar questions, it would be a good idea to explain how your newer question differs from your older one. Don't make it hard to figure out, explain it outright – something like this: "I asked a similar question about X & Y before, but this time I'm interested in the difference between X & Z." Including a link to the prior question would probably be a good idea, too. – J.R. May 29 '16 at 22:56
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    Alane carmac@ sir, I would involve in meta chat but unfortunately my my mobile device doesn't support for chating, anyway, thank you very much for suggesting me – yubraj May 29 '16 at 23:25

An infinitive X following to be means to do X at some future time because you are supposed to or scheduled to do X.

I am to go to work tomorrow. (I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow so I plan to do that).

John is to be cleaning and not playing video games. (John is supposed to be playing cleaning. This is likely John's mother telling his friend not to let him play video games.)

Infinitives can take have to specify perfect aspect.

To go to the mountains is something everyone in his family does.

To have gone to the mountains was an important thing to his family. (Implies family or mountains does not exist anymore).

I was to go to work yesterday.

I was to have gone to work yesterday. (Job or need to go doesn't exist anymore).

So the meaning of the second sentence is to have done X at some future time because you were supposed to or scheduled to have done X.

You can't do this:

I am to have gone to work yesterday. (Bad)

  • Lawrenc c@ sir, my question was difference between She was to do . . and she was to have done. . . . Could you please edit answer. – yubraj May 29 '16 at 22:28
  • It would be better if you could make their differences, was to vs wast to have – yubraj May 30 '16 at 13:25

"Was" is the correct word to use in both sentences, however in the first sentence is simply incorrect, "have" shouldn't be there and "picked" should be "pick" . Both sentences imply present tense.
To use them properly, it all depends on the statement and what tense you want to write in.
If it is in Past, "Ram still has to pick strawberries, the downpour made the field too muddy"
For present "Ram still has to pick strawberries, but the downpour has made the field too muddy".
For future: "Ram will need to pick strawberries, but the downpour may make the field too muddy"

Sadly, changing tense isn't done by just changing a word, the other words in the sentence also imply tense (eg yesterday, was to, but,) and so they too must be changed to have the same tense. Your sentence wont make much sense if tenses are changed throughout the sentence and throughout a paragraph.


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