How Do You Say 'Supposed To'?

Possibilities Include 'Deber' and 'Tener Que'

Ruins in Cambados, Spain
Las ruinas de Santa Mariña en Cambados, España. (The Santa Mariña ruins in Cambados, Spain.). Photo by Juantiagues; licensed via Creative Commons.

Question: How can I say "supposed to" in the sense of "I'm supposed to go to a wedding on Saturday"? I have just been saying Voy a una boda el sábado, but I want the inflection that I have in English.

I think "Tengo que ir a una boda" is probably what I'm looking for, but I wonder if there are other ways. I used to say "He de ir ..." but I was told that this was not the correct way of saying what I wanted to say. But the solution I was given was something like "Se supone que voy a ...," and I wasn't sure if this was right.

It's like when someone says, "What are you doing on Saturday?", and I say "I'm supposed to go to a wedding." I'm not really saying, "I have to go," I'm just saying that there is a wedding on Saturday that I may or may not go to but it is sort of expected of me to be there, so I'll probably go, but of course if you have a better suggestion, I'm open.

Answer 1: "Tengo que ir" is fine. "Estoy supuesto/a a ir" also works for me, but I suspect that's because I grew up in New York City, where English creeps into Spanish a lot.

"Se supone" really means it is obvious that I have to go!

"He de ir" in South America is used like the future tense and sometimes as a kind of conditional tense.

Answer 2: There are various other choices; when you say in English, I'm supposed to go, but ...," there is a certain implication that you may not really want to or that the duty to go is not absolute.

You can say:

  • "Debo ir," I must go.
  • "Debería ir, pero..." Here you express the fact that you are open to do something else.
  • "Tengo que ir" is fairly strong and you could temper it by saying "tendría que ir." In this way you convey the fact that you could do something else.
tener que
expressing obligation

. This article was adopted from a conversation in a forum once affiliated with this site.

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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "How Do You Say 'Supposed To'?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). How Do You Say 'Supposed To'? Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "How Do You Say 'Supposed To'?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).

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