The English word suppose is pretty unique. You can use it in many different ways, in many different environments. When you’re chatting or even when you’re writing in Academic English, using “suppose” can be easy or difficult. It has many different meanings! Today, you can download and keep our free guide to this wonderful word and start using it today.
Using suppose in English – 4 different ways
First, let’s take a quick look at the 4 different ways of using this small, useful word. Feel free to download this chart, keep it, learn the English and use it!
(Check out our other Quick English guides for other ways to expand your English every day.)
Using suppose in informal English
As usual, informal English is the easiest way to use this word.
It’s quite Elementary: we can use this word on its own as a reply: I suppose means “I agree – but I don’t feel it very strongly.”
In our example here, the question is “Will we go to the cinema?” If the reply is “I suppose”, then probably this person doesn’t mind what “we” do, or he/she doesn’t really want to go to the cinema.
In another way, we use the English word suppose as a discourse marker. (that is, an introduction to a simple sentence). The original sentence is “You’re right”, and we add the words “I suppose“. This means the same as “I guess”. I don’t know if this is completely true, but it seems to be.
Other examples of this might be “I suppose I’ll do ok in the job interview – but I don’t know until they call me.”
Using suppose to imagine or suggest
This is possibly the best way to use the English word suppose. It’s not too difficult, and has 2 different meanings.
When used with the past tense, suppose can be the same as “How about this idea?” or “Imagine this”.
When we use suppose and the past tense to suggest an idea, it is very effective. Think of the business meetings or plans with friends which you could influence just with this word! For example:
“Suppose we started the project in June?”
“Suppose we went somewhere else for holiday?”
When we use it to task somebody to imagine something, it is actually a second conditional sentence (= a sentence with if). For example:
“Suppose you met the President. What would you say?”
“Suppose Leonardo di Caprio walked in here right now. That would be cool!”
As a third conditional sentence, we use it with the past perfect tense. We use it to describe something which didn’t happen in the past (but it was possible). For example:
“Suppose World War 2 had never happened.”
Using suppose to describe plans
Here, we need to use a subject and the verb to be with the English word suppose. It describes a plan. Depending on the context, it might be a plan for the future, or a plan from the past which didn’t happen.
Take the two examples in our image.
I’m supposed to go to the hospital this afternoon: this is my schedule for the afternoon. I have made this plan, and I’m unavailable.
Where is Paul? He’s supposed to meet me here. : I made a plan with Paul, to meet here. It seems that plan has not happened, because Paul isn’t here. (Another example: “I’m supposed to go to work tomorrow, but I’m too sick.”)
Using suppose in Academic/formal English
In this situation, we are using the English word “suppose” in a passive sentence. We do this to describe a common opinion (so it is similar to other phrases like “It is believed”). This is useful if we want to give an opinion which may not actually be our opinion (as you may know, we do this a lot in Academic English).
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