1

Please correct me if I'm wrong, as per my understanding:

"Devoir" has multiple meanings, usually depending on the context; it can either be (literal or figurative) debt, obligation, or probability. It's also usually translated to 'must' or 'to have to'.

With that being said, consider the following sentence:

L'avion doit atterrir à dix heures.

How can one tell if it can be translated as:

The plane is supposed to land at ten o'clock. (probability)

or

The plane must land at ten o'clock. (literal translation)

1
  • It depends on context but your English translations should include: should.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 16:20
3

The context will allow to choose between the possible meanings.
In your example, both translations could be possible, but given the context, only one would suit.

Without any additional information, your example would be understood as 'the plane is supposed to land at ten o'clock', and that's what is planned.

Another example where we would instead choose the second meaning:
L'avion doit atterrir à dix heure ou il perdra son créneau. -> The plane must land at ten o'clock or it will lose its slot.

As you can see, the context allows us to choose the suitable meaning. If there is no context, usually it can be inferred from the common use of the sentence.

3
  • Basically, I agree except one nuance is missing And that's that: The plane should land at 10 o'clock. also means: is supposed to.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 16:32
  • @Lambie 'Is supposed to' means 'should' in my mind. If I'm missing a nuance here, please edit my answer to reflect it.
    – Sacha
    Jun 13 at 20:30
  • It is not for you; it is for the OP. devoir is should and should can mean supposed to but does not always. The OP only gave is supposed to.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13 at 21:00
2

It depends on context.

Si l'on veut arriver à l'heure pour le déjeuner, l'avion doit atterrir à dix heures.

⇒ The plane must land at ten o'clock

Tu peux venir me chercher à l'aéroport ? L'avion doit atterrir à dix heures...

⇒ The plane is supposed to land at ten o'clock

J'ai bien étudié les temps de parcours. L'avion DEVRAIT atterrir à dix heures.

⇒ probability

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