How to Use Suppose and Supposed To

I suppose is very different from supposed to. Do you think you know how to use them properly? Then take this short, fun test!

Suppose vs Supposed To


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Suppose vs Supposed To

Question 1 of 5.

What movie is this from?

1. I'm not sure but I suppose it's from Harry Potter.
2. I'm not sure but I suppose it's from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
3. Andrew, my English is pretty good but I don't know the English names of movies! Why are you so obsessed with pop culture?

It's from Harry Potter

It's the Golden Snitch from the famous wizard sport Quidditch.

Probably quite a lot of you are ONE MILLION PERCENT SURE it's from Harry Potter. In that case you wouldn't say 'I suppose'. You'd say 'It's from Harry Potter' or 'It's definitely from Harry Potter'.

Question 2 of 5.

Your friend sets you up on a blind date. The woman/man arrives wearing their face mask like this. What would you do?

1. I suppose I'd go ahead with the date and try to make a good first impression.
2. I suppose I'd run away screaming 'Unclean! Unclean!'

Run! Run like the wind!

The man or woman might be attractive, but they are stupid and dangerous. Do you want to have children with someone who doesn't listen to doctors and scientists?

Anyway, using "I suppose" is correct here because it's hard to know exactly what you'd do in a situation like this. You can guess but you can't be sure.

Question 3 of 5.

Why does he say 'sorry, gotta take this?'

1. He wants to take the phone and sell it at the local flea market.
2. He got an incoming phone call and wants to take the phone call.
3. I suppose he is PRETENDING to be taking a phone call so that he doesn't have to stay in the room.

Take a call, not take the phone!

A lot of English students say 'I need to make a phone' - that's Apple and Samsung's job! Those students mean 'make a phone call'. Take a phone call is the same thing but you receive a call.

It's possible the second answer is correct but if you've ever seen a TV show then you know people always lie about incoming phone calls so that they can exit an awkward situation.

Question 4 of 5.

What is Bart doing?

1. His homework.
2. Not his homework.

He SHOULD be doing his homework right now but he obviously isn't.

Either it's the time of day when he is expected to do his homework or his mother told him to go and do his homework. SOMEONE expects him to do his homework. But he isn't doing it. Oh, Bart!

Question 5 of 5.

Is this ironic?

1. Yes.
2. No.

A little toooooo ironic, don't you think?

She isn't happy. The worst thing about being unhappy in this situation is that EVERYONE EXPECTS YOU TO BE HAPPY.

You're supposed to enjoy your wedding day. You're supposed to enjoy rollercoasters. You're supposed to be happy to see your baby for the first time. So if you don't... oops!

Next question 1 of 5

All 5 questions completed!


Suppose vs Supposed To

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If you didn’t get full marks in the test, then here’s a quick guide to the main uses of suppose and supposed to.

Suppose vs Supposed To

 

suppose (verb)

Suppose is used to assume something is true without knowing for sure.

Examples:

  • I suppose you know the answer. You know everything!
  • I suppose you could be right, but there’s no way to check.
  • She supposed her membership had expired. (That’s why her swipe card didn’t open the door.)

be supposed to (expression, acts like a modal verb)

This is a very common expression that a lot of students struggle with. First up note that the verb to be must come before supposed to. The phrase means ‘expected to’.

I’m sure you’ve seen Star Wars Episode 3 in which Obi-Wan fights Anakin Skywalker. Here’s the most famous scene:

Obi-Wan and all the other Jedi believed that Anakin would be their hero. But he turned out bad! What! He was SUPPOSED TO BE the hero!

Or imagine I meet my girlfriend after work to go to a party. (You know, in the year 2030 when parties are normal again.) We agreed that one of us would bring wine and the other would bring cat treats. (Our hosts have a cat.) We realise that both of us have brought cat treats! What do we say to each other?

“You were supposed to bring wine!”
“No, YOU were supposed to bring wine!”

It’s like saying ‘but I expected YOU to bring wine!’

be supposed to is similar to modal verbs like have to and ought to, although there are subtle differences in meaning …

Examples:

  • I’m supposed to wear a mask while I have beers with my mates, but I don’t want to (meaning: the government expects me to wear a mask when I am in a group of people)
  • I ought to wear a mask while I talk to my elderly neighbours, … (meaning: I should do it, but I don’t have to. In this case I will wear a mask because they are at risk, but there’s no-one checking me)
  • I have to wear a mask on the train, …  (meaning: I must do it; I don’t have a choice. There are cameras on the train!)

 

More ways to use suppose

Suppose is also used to make suggestions without knowing what will happen. It’s similar to saying (or writing) what if … ? Supposing could also be used to make a suggestion in the same way. Note: these sentences should also remind you of the first conditional.

Examples:

  • Suppose I look out of the window for 30 minutes, will that help me finish my painting?
  • Supposing I look out of the window, will I see a parrot?
  • What if I look out of the window – will I see a pink elephant?

A common expression using suppose communicates reluctant agreement.

Example:

  1. Are you ready?
  2. I suppose so. (This suggests the person doesn’t really want to go.)

 

More ways to use supposed

Supposed to can be used to discuss people’s views. It can be used to express obligation, indicate something is expected, required. It can also mean meant to (assumptions, beliefs ) or allowed.

Examples:

  • I am supposed to clean the litter tray, but I’ll do it tomorrow. (meaning: expected)
  • You are supposed to clean it today. It’s the law. (meaning: expected)
  • Exercise is supposed to make you feel better. (meaning: meant to/said to)
  • We are supposed to dance every day! (meaning: an obligation, it’s required – e.g. the speaker is a student in a dance academy)
  • We are not supposed to dance in this shop. (meaning: it’s not allowed, it wouldn’t be acceptable)
  • It’s supposed to be a totally wonderful day today! (reason: the weather forecast said it would be sunny, or it’s a belief I have)

A less common form of supposed shows an assumption which is not necessarily the right one. The adjective is in the past participle form. So think of ‘supposed friend’ or ‘supposed savings’. Similar adjectives might be coloured jacket, frightened boy or boiled water.

You pronounce it with a stressed, fuzzy Z on the second S. Suppo-zed.

Examples:

  • Be careful, since your supposed friend may be your worst enemy.
  • When did your supposed trip to the shops become reading your book?
  • It was her supposed talent that got her the acting job.

Pronunciation

There is a subtle difference in the pronunciation of suppose and supposed to :

‘I’m supposed to clean the litter tray today,’ (you will hear /s/ (ss) twice in supposed (the ‘d’ will be pronounced as a /t/ → /s/uppo/s//t/ or sup-post)

‘I suppose I should clean the litter tray,’ (you will hear /s/ and /z/ → /s/uppo/z/ or sup-poze)

 

 

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