Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have always been little confused regarding the use of supposed to. One meaning I am clear on is "obligation," another one is "a theory/concept accepted by a group of people," as in This restaurant is supposed to be a good one.

But I can't make any sense out of the sentence given that definition. So is this phrase correct? If so, then how I am supposed to interpret it?

share|improve this question
    
What does "release" refer to in this sentence? A film festival? –  tylerharms Dec 12 '12 at 19:16
    
@tylerharms I meant as some product like windows 8 but yes it works for film festival too. –  Dude Dec 12 '12 at 19:26

2 Answers 2

Supposed to (pronounced /'spostə/) is a periphrastic modal idiom. I.e, it means much the same thing, in much the same contexts, as the modal auxiliary verb should.

Like should, it must be followed by an infinitive verb (that's what the to is for), and it indicates (like should) either a mild obligation of the subject to perform an active infinitive (the deontic modal sense), or a commonly-held belief in the likelihood of a stative infinitive being true (the epistemic sense).

  • (You should/You're supposed to) lock the door behind you.
  • This (should/is supposed to) be the last one we do.

Unlike should, however, supposed to is not a verb but a predicate adjective, and therefore has to be preceded by some form of be, which is tensed. Should, a defective modal auxiliary, doesn't allow any tense.

  • You were supposed to lock the door.
  • You shoulded lock the door.

All modals have such periphrastic idioms, for the same reasons, often with idiomatic reduced pronunciations, e.g,

  • ought to /'ɔɾə/ ~ should
  • have to /'hæftə/ ~ must
  • want to /'wanə/ ~ will
  • (be) willing to ~ will
  • (be) able to ~ can
  • (be) allowed to ~ may

In the case mentioned, this is the epistemic sense, so it means

It is a commonly-held belief that this is likely to be one of the features of this year's release.

And that seems to be how it was intended and interpreted.

share|improve this answer
    
This text has an overall typographical emphasis of about 0.26 lawler.¹ –  MετάEd Dec 13 '12 at 4:19
    
We did kick this one around before, and I still like Cerberus's answer there. But I like this one too (apart from anything else, it's shorter! :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 13 '12 at 4:39

John Lawler's answer is fabulously detailed, but may be a little hard to follow.

In this sentence, "supposed to" has the meaning of "is expected to." It's similar to its meaning of obligation -- telling a child "You are supposed to eat your vegetables" could mean either/both of "you are obliged to eat your vegetables" and "you are expected to eat your vegetables."

As Mr. Lawler points out, "should" is often a good replacement. It has both the "obliged" and "expected" meanings.

share|improve this answer
    
You had me at "John Lawler's answer". –  MετάEd Dec 13 '12 at 4:23
    
Umm... Doesn't exactly the same deontic/epistemic ambiguity apply to is expected to? (as well as should, obviously). Explaining one ambiguous word in terms of two others having the same ambiguity seems a bit odd (but I suppose we're supposed to be familiar with how at least one of the three works! :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 13 '12 at 4:45

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.