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This package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday.

This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday.

Please explain the difference.

And my doubt is generally we use simple past when we say things happened in the past. But why we use present perfect in this situation?

And one more doubt is we use has for singular subjects as "This package has been delivered". But why we use have been with supposed to?

Correct me if I'm wrong and please explain the grammar relevant to this.

  • Simple past vs past perfect is a nuanced subject that's a bit difficult to really nail down to non-native speakers. On StackExchange English, there have been a number of conversations about it. Here's one post that discusses it: english.stackexchange.com/questions/73143/… Note that it's a duplicate post as well; there are links to other posts on the same subject. – ArbitraryRenaissance Aug 3 '16 at 2:31
  • @ArbitraryRenaissance - The past perfect is not used in the OP's example. – P. E. Dant Aug 3 '16 at 2:58
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    @P.E.Dant Whoops, you're right. I meant to say "present perfect." – ArbitraryRenaissance Aug 3 '16 at 3:40
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    @ArbitraryRenaissance - Neither is the present perfect used here. Did you read the rest of the page? – P. E. Dant Aug 3 '16 at 3:41
  • @P.E.Dant No, it's not precisely used in the example, but to me the concepts seem closely related. I figured that having a better understanding of the present perfect (which is a more commonly discussed grammatical topic) would reflexively help the OP have a better understanding of what the contextual differences between the sentences in his presented example may be. – ArbitraryRenaissance Aug 3 '16 at 4:02
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The passive form of "verbs of saying and thinking" (think, believe, say, know, suppose, think, report, consider, understand, expect, intend, mean, etc.) is sometimes followed by an infinitive. For example:

He is considered to excel at cricket.
She is said to collect Italians.
They were reported to have eaten oysters.
Quinine is believed to cure malaria.

In your sentences, the passive past tense of the verb to suppose is followed by two different passive forms of the infinitive to deliver.

Your sentences are nearly identical in meaning. The first is:

The package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday.

Have been here is not used as the present perfect of the verb to be. Instead, to have been delivered is the perfect passive form of the infinitive to deliver.

Your second sentence is:

This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday.

Here the simple passive form of the infinitive, to be delivered, is used.

  • Re. Your sentences are very close in meaning. Does it mean that either would work without any, even a slight difference in its meaning, and it's just a matter of a writer's preference? – Lamplighter Aug 2 '16 at 21:25
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    @Rompey We might use the perfect passive form to emphasize that the package wasn't delivered when expected. I'm sure there will be a flood here, but the difference is so slight that either usage would suffice in almost any context. – P. E. Dant Aug 2 '16 at 21:31
  • Thanks awfully -- "We might use the perfect passive form to emphasize that the package wasn't delivered when expected" is just what I wanted to hear. – Lamplighter Aug 2 '16 at 21:39
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    @Rompey But note that depending on context,This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday could also emphasize the lateness of delivery. The difference is vanishingly small, and context is everything. – P. E. Dant Aug 2 '16 at 23:46
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    If I were to call the local USPS office to complain that "This package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday", the postal worker would think I was British or some other foreigner. They would expect to hear I shoulda got it yesterday. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 3 '16 at 2:14

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