Currently I am doing voluntary work of a type that if I did not do it, nobody could. Additionally I am paying a lot of money in order to be able to do this work. Also it is not that the person who invited me to do this work could have gotten someone else to do the job and I was in "competition" with anyone - so if I were not doing it, nobody would be.

Today my inviter said to me "we expected you to do this". I felt very insulted by this, but I am not a native English speaker and neither is he, so either or both of us might have misunderstood the usage of this phrase. In my mother tongue it is okay to say "I expect it to rain" because this is a more formal way of saying "I think it will rain". However if one says to a person "I expect you to do this" then it means something along the lines of "you have to do it, damn it" being a strong demand. Basically the only situation where this would be appropriate would be if the one saying it is paying the other one. But even then it would only be said if the employee had been pretty negligent in the past.

If this were in my language I would say my inviter has been disrespectful and unfair, especially because he said something along the lines of "this is your job".

My question is now: Am I mistaken? Does "we expected you to do this" mean he just thought I would do this, or is he making demands?

1 Answer 1


It's ambiguous. Taken literally, it simply means that he thought that you would do it. However, there is often an implication that you should have done it, since expectations within a business context tend to be based on contracts, both formal and informal.

Since neither of you are conversing in your first language in this instance, I would say that the ambiguity is intensified - that is to say, it becomes even harder to guess what was intended.

Based on that, I think that if you make any assumptions (guesses) about what was meant, you run the risk of being wrong.

  • The way you described it in the first paragraph is how it is understood in my language too - only that the should is pretty clear. Thanks for your answer, I am looking forward to other answers, too.
    – Make42
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 10:14
  • 2
    Your question is about the intentions of the speaker, which we can only guess at. It is the case that "I expected you to do that" often means "I think that you should have done that". That's not quite what you asked, though. Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 10:15

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