Be about to

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The be about to structure is a very commonly used multi-word verb form, in this case, a semi-auxiliary (i.e. it always needs a main verb (unless, of course it's being used as a short answer, in which case it's used like any other auxiliary - see below).

Future[edit]

  • it's very commonly used to express future intention - similar to the "be going to" structure I'm going to make a nice cup of tea, but more immediate: I'm about to make a nice cup of tea.

Past[edit]

  • In the same way that "be going to" is often used in the past, I was about to make a cup of tea is a typical expression referring to an intention that didn't materialise in the recent past (I was about to call you) or has been temporarily interrupted I was about to make myself a cup of tea but now that you're here I'll make a teapot.

Short answers[edit]

Like any other auxiliary, when used as a short answer to a question, it's used without the main verb: Have you done your homework? - I was about to.

References[edit]


See also[edit]