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sEventoRii's avatar

What does "were to do" mean?

Asked by sEventoRii (84points) March 23rd, 2010

Actually i’d like to know the difference between

will do
be about to do
be to do
were to do

these phrases are really driving me crazy~!@#$%^&*(

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24 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Let’s have the complete expression. Is there an “if” in it? Is there another verb? How about a subject and an object? By itself it doesn’t mean much at all.

Trillian's avatar

Do you mean we are to do, or they were to do?
This sounds a bit like homework.

FutureMemory's avatar

be about to do
be to do
were to do

I have never heard these phrases. Ever.

Jewel's avatar

Be about to do?
Be to do?
We’re (we are) to do?
I think you are not a native english speaker and are confused about how things are phrased. The phrases you used do not make sense.

sEventoRii's avatar

@Jeruba yes there’s verb and subject
for example:if some one were to damage my car, he would see the dark side of me..
or: I will do my homework.
I’m to do my homework.

sEventoRii's avatar

@Jewel you’re right I’m not a native speaker. so these nuances are really bothering me….

faye's avatar

I will do it. They were to do it. But the other 2 phrases make no sense to me.

simpleD's avatar

To do is to be. —Socrates.
To be is to do. —Jean-Paul Sartre.
To be or not to be. —Hamlet.
Do-be-do-be-do. —Frank Sinatra

PadmanJones's avatar

I’m guessing that by ‘be about to do’ and so on and so forth, you mean ‘to be about to do,’ as in ‘he is about to do…’ and such.

So ‘will do’ is the future tense – “I will go to the movie with you.”

‘To be about to do’ is also future, but it implies a closer temporal proximity. “When you called, I was about to get in the shower” (like if you had the shower on and were very soon going to get into it)

‘To be to do’ suggests an imperative. “I am to clear the table after dinner” implies that it’s your chore to clean the table after dinner; it’s something you’re sort of obliged to do.

And ‘were to do’ means something like ‘in the event that he does it.’ It’s a conditional statement; a similar example might be “Were he to buy me tickets to the movie, I would go with him.”

Jewel's avatar

I will do my homework.
I was going to do my homework.
I must do my homework.
I need to do my homework.
We will do our homework.
I was supposed to do my homework.
We’re (we are) supposed to do our homework.
Perhaps these help?

faye's avatar

@simpleD That was an outright chuckle for me!

sEventoRii's avatar

@PadmanJones that’s very helpful! thx I kind of got it. but is there any other usage for “to be to do”? like “to do something that’s a plan”

simpleD's avatar

“Were to do” seems to be part of a subjunctive phrase. It expresses a wish, and is usually begun by “If.” The tense takes the normal form of the indicative verb, except with “to be” in which case all forms are “were”, no matter who the subject is.

“If I were to do great things, I would be rewarded with lurve.”

YoH's avatar

I’m not certain but ‘were to do’, sounds like an Amish phrase,possibly meaning ‘going to do’. There are many Amish in my community and they use little phrases unlike we the Engish folk.

Jeruba's avatar

@sEventoRii, if you are studying English, the way that the teacher is presenting these forms to you is part of a larger scheme or plan. You are not getting them in isolation (that is, separate and unrelated to anything else).

If you do not understand them the way they are coming to you in your lesson, you will have to go back to the teacher for your answers. We don’t know how they’re being taught to you. They sound unnatural to us all by themselves, even though some of us do clearly understand them as grammatical constructions. I’m afraid that we will just confuse you by taking wild guesses at what this lesson is supposed to be about.

@FutureMemory, yes, I think you have: “I’m about to lose my temper. You’re to (you are to) go to your room at once. If I were to do what I please right now, I’d smack your bottom.” Those are forms of the verb “to be”—to be about to, to be to, and were to. We just never use them with the infinitive; we conjugate them.

faye's avatar

Were to do sounds right to me. Fred and Jane were to do the dishes while Davey swept the floor.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Jeruba If you want to talk more about smacking my bottom send me a PM – a private one of course.

HTDC's avatar

As it’s been mentioned, “were to do” is almost always used with “if” preceding it. It’s used in hypothetical situations.

JLeslie's avatar

will do signifies something for the future. I will do my homework tomorrow.
be about to do Possibly the use of be is the infinitive, but we more likely would be conjugating the verb, So I will use is. Gina is about to do something very funny. This means it will be happneing in the very near future, within seconds.
be to do Again, I will assume we can conjugate the verb. Kim is to do her homework. That typically means she has to do it now. This example might be said by a mom to Kim’s friend for example. Indicating that Kim cannot talk or play with her, because her mom is requiring her to do her homework now.
were to do means you are thinking about what might happen if you do something or if someone else does something. If I were to do my homework now, I would miss my dance class.

Not sure that is correct, but that is the way I interpret it. What is your native language?

anartist's avatar

If we WERE TO DO it [grant you citizenship based on your command of English grammar] we would have done it already. A speculative form [I know there is a grammatical term for it] presupposing something that isn’t so.

JLeslie's avatar

If you speak Spanish I can write it in Spanish to better explain.

anartist's avatar

I will do the dishest is a statement of INTENT [you may still be sitting on the sofa watching TV].
I am about to do the dishest [be about to do it]—You have gotten off the sofa, turned off the TV and are going into the kitchen to wash the dishes [this is temporal, implies actions occuring on a timeline].
My mother told me I am to do the dishes. WILL is not involved here. This was an order/request. Very similar is I shall do the dishes. [shall-should will-would]
I can do the dishes [can-could states I have the ability and implies an offer to do it]

hope this helps

PadmanJones's avatar

@sEventoRii Well there is ‘to be done,’ which is a particular task that you have in mind that you need to complete – like part of a plan. (“The dishes have yet to be done.”) I don’t know if that’s exactly what you’re looking for, but basically ‘to be to do’ will often mean something that is planned or assigned.

anartist's avatar

I will do INTENT
I can do ABILITY possibly implied OFFER

[if] I were to do HYPOTHETICAL

About to do TEMPORAL

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