When to Use Suppose or Supposed

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

'Suppose' and 'supposed' often confuse people because 'supposed' is both the past tense form of the verb 'suppose' and also functions as an adjective, or describing word.

Moses Supposes

Is the difference between 'suppose' and 'supposed' something that drives a lot of English readers, writers, and speakers a little crazy? Well, I suppose it is. These two similar words cause so much anxiety because they have similar meanings but their jobs in a sentence, known as their part of speech, can be confusing.

'Suppose' is pretty straightforward because it is a verb, or action word. But 'supposed' is a tricky beast. Sometimes it is also a verb when it is used as the past tense form of 'suppose'. But it can also be an adjective, or describing word.

Well I Suppose

The verb 'suppose' means to assume something to be true without evidence to prove that it is true. This is the present tense form of the verb. It describes actions happening right now or can be combined with 'will' to describe things that happen in the future, as in these examples:

  • I suppose we still have time to make the movie.
  • Jane supposes that Brad will propose tomorrow night.
  • I suppose you are telling the truth.
  • In the future, I will suppose you are lying until proven otherwise.

I suppose we still have time to make the movie.

What Am I Supposed To Do?

Like many verbs, the past tense of 'suppose' is formed by adding an '-ed' to the end (or just a 'd' in this case, since the word ends with an 'e'). So to use the verb 'suppose' to describe things in the past, you use 'supposed':

  • Last night, Becky supposed that Greg was standing her up.
  • I supposed you would forget my birthday, but you didn't.

But here's where things get complicated. 'Supposed' is also an adjective, used to describe a noun. It also means something that is assumed to be true:

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