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How Do You Say 'Supposed To'?

Possibilities Include Using 'Deber' and 'Tener Que'


Question: How can I say "supposed to" in the sense of "I'm supposed to go to a wedding on Saturday"? I have just been saying Voy a una boda el sábado, but I want the inflection that I have in English.

I think Tengo que ir a una boda is probably what I'm looking for, but I wonder if there are other ways. I used to say He de ir ... but I was told that this was not the correct way of saying what I wanted to say. But the solution I was givien was something like Se supone que voy a ..., and I wasn't sure if this was right.

It's like when someone says, "What are you doing on Saturday?", and I say "I'm supposed to go to a wedding." I'm not really saying, "I have to go," I'm just saying that there is a wedding on Saturday that I may or may not go to but it is sort of expected of me to be there, so I'll probably go, but of course if you have a better suggestion, I'm open.

Answer 1: Tengo que ir is fine. Estoy supuesto/a a ir also works for me but I suspect that's because I grew up in NYC where English creeps into Spanish a lot.

Se supone really means it is obvious that I have to go!

He de ir in South America is used like the future tense and sometimes as a kind of conditional tense.

Answer 2: There are various other choices; when you say in English, I'm supposed to go, but ...," there is a certain implication that you may not really want to or that the duty to go is not absolute.

You can say:

  • Debo ir, I must go.
  • Debería ir, pero... Here you express the fact that you are open to do something else.
  • Tengo que ir is fairly strong and you could temper it by saying tendría que ir. In this way you convey the fact that you could do something else.
Comment: You can learn more about the above concepts in the lessons about tener que and deber. See also the lesson on expressing obligation.

Note: This question and answer were adapted from a discussion on the forum. Although that discussion no longer exists, you can comment on the blog post about blog entry on "supposed to."

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