Please explain the difference between these two sentences to me?

3

1

This package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday.

This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday.

Please explain the difference.

And my doubt is generally we use simple past when we say things happened in the past. But why we use present perfect in this situation?

And one more doubt is we use has for singular subjects as "This package has been delivered". But why we use have been with supposed to?

Correct me if I'm wrong and please explain the grammar relevant to this.

Omkar Reddy

Posted 2016-08-02T19:34:48.447

Reputation: 818

Simple past vs past perfect is a nuanced subject that's a bit difficult to really nail down to non-native speakers. On StackExchange English, there have been a number of conversations about it. Here's one post that discusses it: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/73143/simple-past-vs-present-perfect-was-vs-has-been Note that it's a duplicate post as well; there are links to other posts on the same subject.

– ArbitraryRenaissance – 2016-08-03T02:31:18.570

@ArbitraryRenaissance - The past perfect is not used in the OP's example. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-03T02:58:38.187

1@P.E.Dant Whoops, you're right. I meant to say "present perfect." – ArbitraryRenaissance – 2016-08-03T03:40:20.023

1@ArbitraryRenaissance - Neither is the present perfect used here. Did you read the rest of the page? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-03T03:41:48.623

@P.E.Dant No, it's not precisely used in the example, but to me the concepts seem closely related. I figured that having a better understanding of the present perfect (which is a more commonly discussed grammatical topic) would reflexively help the OP have a better understanding of what the contextual differences between the sentences in his presented example may be. – ArbitraryRenaissance – 2016-08-03T04:02:20.087

@ArbitraryRenaissance What does "not precisely used" mean? There is precisely no usage at all of the past perfect nor the present perfect in the OP's question. Not a whit. Since his misunderstanding was based on the mistaken assumption that have been is used as the present perfect of to be, which it is not - and precisely not - I think all you will do here is confuse him even more! If you really think that there is even a hint or wisp or vestige of the present perfect here and cleverly hiding from us, please elucidate. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-03T04:14:17.153

@P.E. Dant sir,could you please tell me the active forms of those two sentences? – Omkar Reddy – 2016-08-03T05:21:06.823

@Ganesh.R We have to supply an Agent to use the active voice, so let's use "He:" He was supposed to have delivered this package yesterday, - and - He was supposed to deliver this package yesterday. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-03T06:15:02.077

Answers

3

The passive form of "verbs of saying and thinking" (think, believe, say, know, suppose, think, report, consider, understand, expect, intend, mean, etc.) is sometimes followed by an infinitive. For example:

He is considered to excel at cricket.
She is said to collect Italians.
They were reported to have eaten oysters.
Quinine is believed to cure malaria.

In your sentences, the passive past tense of the verb to suppose is followed by two different passive forms of the infinitive to deliver.

Your sentences are nearly identical in meaning. The first is:

The package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday.

Have been here is not used as the present perfect of the verb to be. Instead, to have been delivered is the perfect passive form of the infinitive to deliver.

Your second sentence is:

This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday.

Here the simple passive form of the infinitive, to be delivered, is used.

P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-08-02T19:34:48.447

Reputation: 9 373

Re. Your sentences are very close in meaning. Does it mean that either would work without any, even a slight difference in its meaning, and it's just a matter of a writer's preference? – Victor B. – 2016-08-02T21:25:53.420

2@Rompey We might use the perfect passive form to emphasize that the package wasn't delivered when expected. I'm sure there will be a flood here, but the difference is so slight that either usage would suffice in almost any context. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-02T21:31:14.257

Thanks awfully -- "We might use the perfect passive form to emphasize that the package wasn't delivered when expected" is just what I wanted to hear. – Victor B. – 2016-08-02T21:39:03.797

3@Rompey But note that depending on context,This package was supposed to be delivered yesterday could also emphasize the lateness of delivery. The difference is vanishingly small, and context is everything. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-02T23:46:16.870

2If I were to call the local USPS office to complain that "This package was supposed to have been delivered yesterday", the postal worker would think I was British or some other foreigner. They would expect to hear I shoulda got it yesterday. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-08-03T02:14:16.190