... Washington intervened Tuesday and “advised” NAM participants as well as Ban to turn Tehran down on its nuclear tour, which was to have included the suspected nuclear-related explosives testing lab ...

Is the usage 'was to have included' correct? And if so, how is it different from 'was to include' or 'would have included'?


Yes, it's grammatically correct. It's a past perfect infinitive as a verbal. http://lessons.englishgrammar101.com/EnglishGrammar101/Module3/Lesson3-38.aspx

It would also be grammatically correct if it read "was {supposed / scheduled } to include". The version "was to include" is also grammatically correct. A tree diagram to illustrate the underlying structure of the sentence would show that some words have been elided (removed). [NB: This is one of the problems with Chomsky's idea about underlying structure. There is more than one possible underlying structure that leads to this surface structure: "was {supposed / scheduled / intended} to include".]

"Would have included" changes the sentence to a Past Unreal Conditional, "The tour would have included the suspected nuclear-related explosives testing lab, had it taken place". "The Past Unreal Conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations in the past. You can describe what you would have done differently or how something could have happened differently if circumstances had been different." <http://www.englishpage.com/conditional/pastconditional.html>

There's no reason to use the past unreal conditional here because the plan for the tour actually existed. The tour did not happen.

Speakers of British English tend to use the perfect aspect more than speakers of American English do.

  • 1
    Re: deletion. Leaving out information always causes ambiguities; it's a feature of language, not of linguistic theories. However, we apparently value brevity over clarity, since we keep leaving things out, anyway. BTW, "underlying structure" dates back far earlier than Chomsky. The be to Verb idiom refers to scheduled events in the future; He is to leave tomorrow is another member of the "Future Tense" group: He is leaving tomorrow, He will leave tomorrow, He is going to leave tomorrow, etc. Aug 29 '12 at 15:10
  • Thank you for the clarification about underlying structure. I haven't studied pre-Chomsky linguistics. Q: Is He was to have left tomorrow a member of the "Future Tense" group?
    – user21497
    Aug 30 '12 at 0:06
  • It's the past tense of be to Verb idiom, that's all. The reason why there are so many future expressions is that modals like will can't be put in the past, but auxiliary verbs like be can be. Aug 30 '12 at 1:49
  • Thanks for the detailed answer. At a semantic level, I don't see the construct is trying to convey a sense of perfection, so 'to turn them down on the tour, which was to include ...' sounds more natural. Contrast to for example 'The tour, which was to have included the testing labs was canceled midway'.
    – BazAU
    Aug 31 '12 at 0:30
  • It isn't "a sense of perfect". "Perfect" is the name of an aspect of English grammar that uses "have" (present perfect) or "had" (past perfect) (e.g., I have seen that movie twice [and may see it again] and I had seen that movie twice before it was banned [but won't see it again]). I saw that movie twice before it was banned is the simple past, not the past perfect. Both of your versions sound natural to me: which one a speaker uses is just a style preference.
    – user21497
    Aug 31 '12 at 8:10

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