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I learnt (or I think I learnt) that to express the immediate future, you can use to be + past participle:

  • I am to make one of the most important decisions in my life.
  • She is to be elected as the mayor of the city.

Is it correct or did I make that up?

[Edit: take->make ]

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You make, not take, a decision. The only time you would "take" a decision is when you take it away -- ie remove it from discussion/consideration. –  jmoreno Nov 2 '13 at 23:35
    
That is right. I corrected my question. –  user48678 Nov 3 '13 at 22:43
    
@jmoreno From which side of the pond are you? There could be English speakers on the other side as well :) –  Kris Nov 4 '13 at 6:45

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Is to v. can be used in a few ways, and does not necessarily state the immediate future— or state the future at all. Directives, for example, can be written this way:

Employees are to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly.

Enforcement is to cease and desist as per the injunction.

As you note, you can express a prediction or expectation of the future in this way, but it is not necessarily the immediate future.

Scientists say Betelgeuse is to explode within the next million years.

In conversational English, it sounds somewhat formal or stilted, and we would more likely say something or someone is going to v. (or planning to, or in Texas fixin' to, or if truly immediate about to or just about to):

I am going to eat liver and onions for supper.

She is not going to kiss me afterwards.

This construction is common in reporting, especially in headlinese:

Seth Myers is to host Late Night after Jimmy Fallon departs for The Tonight Show.

NFL to Add Second Team in Jacksonville

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For a star (in the sky, not on TV), the next million years would be the immediate future. –  Andreas Blass Nov 3 '13 at 0:31
    
Super great answer. Thank you for refreshing my memory about all the possible usages of this construction. –  user48678 Nov 3 '13 at 22:47

You can, but it's somewhat literary.

I also find it a little odd in the case of the election, because it implies that the outcome of the election is known before the election has taken place.

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It doesn't necessarily imply anything, though it can be interpreted that way depending on the context. The OP's sentences can be understood exactly as they were meant to be, in the right context. –  Kris Nov 4 '13 at 6:47

I think it is idiomatic in plain English to use "about" for these sentences:

I am about to be dropped at the train station

I am about to take make one of the most important decisions in my life

She is about to be elected as the mayor of the city.

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1  
About suggests that the event is imminent, which may not be the case. The driver is to pick me up at dawn in Cunnamulla. After a stop in Dalby, I am to be dropped off at the train station in Brisbane, hopefully by nightfall. –  choster Nov 2 '13 at 2:47
    
OP did say "immediate future". In those sentences, I think using "will" would be plainer and less archaic or pompous. –  Hugh Nov 2 '13 at 3:16

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