Supposed to vs. expected to


Be supposed to meaning ‘to be expected to or ‘to be required to is a common phrase that functions the same way as a modal verb does. The modal verbs also known as auxiliary or helping verbs express ability, possibility, permission, or obligation: ‘I have to be home before midnight or my father will be mad at me’; ‘I’m supposed to be home before midnight or my father will be mad at me’.


Be expected to means ‘(someone/ something) be required to fulfil an obligation’. So, be expected to and be supposed to are the same in meaning but be expected to specifically involves another person or people who were expecting us to do it: ‘She is expected to tidy her own room’; ‘you are expected to return the money by Friday’.

Example sentences of be supposed to

Was the train supposed to be here so early?

She is supposed to arrive tomorrow.

It is Sunday evening; they are supposed to turn in early.

The magician is supposed to saw a woman in half.

She is supposed to be the best professor in university.

The word is supposed to be derived from Arabic.

He’s supposed to be meeting her at the court.


We also use ‘be supposed toto express what a person (or thing) is likely to do or is reputed to do: ‘It was supposed to rain tonight’; ‘he is supposed to be the best architect in town’.


Be careful!

Suppose (without the d) should only be used as the present tense of the verb meaning to assume (something to be true).


More example sentences of be supposed to

Children are supposed to be quiet in class.            (required or expected but maybe not always done)

You are supposed to be at work today.                  (but you aren’t because you feel sick)

You are supposed to listen to your teachers.

The maid is supposed to mop up the spilt milk before she goes home.

What am I supposed to do in a situation like this?’ ‘Do what you’re supposed to.’


Was/ were supposed to…implies that you did not do what you were supposed to do: ‘you were supposed to be at the airport by 7’. (but you didn’t and so you missed the flight); You were supposed to go walking to the library.  (but you rode bicycle)


She was supposed to be here yesterday.

She was supposed to wash the dishes last night.

The party was supposed to be a surprise.

We were not supposed to leave the office unattended.

The movie was supposed to win a round of applause at the International forum, but it didn’t.


Example sentences of be expected to

Employers are expected to pay reasonable wages to workers.

If they don’t have the right to vote, why then, should they be expected to abide by rules?

As a citizen of this country, you are expected to pay your taxes on time.

We are expected to pay by a certain date even though the development will not be completed.

You are not expected to know everything, but let them assume you are willing to learn.


More example sentences of be expected to

Governments cannot be expected to provide with facilities unless people pay their taxes.

Now I am expected to pay the arrears I owe them through their inept management of resources.

He soon realised he was expected to be a role model, mentor and support the country.

In these times of pandemic, employers are expected to allow their workers to work from home.

The bottom line is that you are expected to have some sense of what you want to do in terms of career goals.


Was/ were expected to also broadly denotes that you did not do what you were expected to do: ‘you were expected to be at the airport by 7’. (but you didn’t as the plans changed)

 She was expected to pay her bills, but had no money to do so.

When her parents died, she was expected to take up the role of a parent and care for younger siblings.


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