What is the meaning of this sentence:

He met a girl who was to become a queen.

Does it show the plan of the girl?

Does it mean: He met a girl who 'was going to' become a queen?

How and in which sense is 'was to' used in this sentence?

  • 2
    was to = was supposed/expected to. – MorganFR May 31 '16 at 15:46


The expression to be to, here, means that it was "programmed". In this case, It can take a greater sense of destiny/fate:

  1. He met a girl who was destined to become a queen.

But also of about to:

  1. He met a girl who was about to become a queen.

Depending on the context before and after.

So no, it doesn't say that the girl had any say in it.

In other cases

It can also take the sense of supposed to. For example:

We were to go to the pool yesterday, where were you?

But also of obligation/interdiction:

You are to follow my orders !

This is an idiom that is very context-dependent.

  • 2
    But it can also be a purely historical function. Suppose somebody met Princess Elizabeth (of the UK) in, say, 1935, when she was 11 years old. Nobody then had any idea that she might become the Queen, let alone that this was her 'destiny': it was only when her uncle abdicated in 1936 that her father became King, and she became the heir presumptive. But writing now there's nothing wrong with referring to her as "a girl who was to become a queen". – Colin Fine May 31 '16 at 19:09

It was the girl's destiny to become a queen some time after the meeting. Maybe she was a princess which would inherit the throne, or a noble's daughter which would later marry a king. Becoming a queen had nothing to do with her plans then.

The grammar construction to be to do something (here, to become a queen) may also mean pre-destined course of events, as it does in your example.

Here's the source: Michael Swan, Practical English Usage, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 9780194420969, p.80, para 91.2

BTW, you had it cleared out in one of your postes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.