Consider this statement in English: From what I heard, when we reach Paris, we are to be wined and dined like kings and queens! In everyday translators, "we are to be" comes out as "nous devons être". But, the intention in English with "we are to be" is not to express "we must be", but to add pomp and circumstance to "we will be".

So my question is: In everyday French, is "nous devons être" actually used in this way, or is "nous sommes être" correct?

If it is neither, then what should it be?

Thinking of the intent in English terms, "nous sommes être" seems correct, whereas "nous devons être" seems to imply compulsion or insistence.

  • For me in English: we are to be wined and dined necessarily implies something has been arranged or set up or is in the works. Just as in: We are to be met at the airport by a car. We are to be seen by a doctor. We are to be hosted by John. We're to be picked up at 5 o'clock. The prisoner was to be taken to jail.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 17:53
  • I have upvoted all three answers so far as they have been useful to me. There seems to be some confusion about the question and I will edit it after I've spent some more time digesting all three answers and all the comments, then I'll delete this comment. Bear with me, thank you all, for all your input. Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 1:46

3 Answers 3


I would avoid nous, which has essentially disappeared as subject in spoken French, and is formal when written and translate the idiom "to be wined and dined (like kings and queens)" by être reçu comme des rois. That might also be accueillis en grande pompe if you want to insist on the fanfare.

Devoir is ambiguous, it doesn't necessarily mean an obligation, just that it is anticipated so the following sentence is possible, although the context is needed to tell what meaning is expected:

On doit être reçus comme des rois

If you are confident it will be the case, you can just say this:

On va être reçus comme des rois
On va être accueillis en grande pompe

If you want it to happen:

Si on veut être reçus comme des rois, il faut qu'on prévienne de notre arrivée.

Être can't be conjugated with itself so nous sommes être is impossible. Nous allons être is fine, as well as on va être already suggested.

  • 2
    Downvoted by a nous fanboy or for something else?
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 11:39
  • Ça va retarder les 200k ! J'annule le -1
    – Personne
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 11:38
  • @Personne Merci ! Je me demande encore en me relisant ce qui a bien pu motiver ce vote négatif...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 11:50
  • 1
    Cela m'est arrivé aussi … à la retraite des réponses, ma cagnotte suit le niveau de vie, surtout quand les “négationnistes fantômes” quittent l'arène :-) ——— STOP … sinon on se retrouve sur Causette. ;-(
    – Personne
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 16:02
  • 1
    That's right devoir here is completely ambiguous. are to be [verb[ can even mean "should be [past participle] in English, sometimes. However, "are/is to be + past participle" verb is an idiomatic usage which implies someone has arranged something: We are to be seen by a doctor. means: On a pris rendez-vous avec un médecin pour nous. There is always someone or something in the background with this usage.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 18:08

"Nous devons être" is the most basic rendering and even in those cases when it is acceptable it is not likely to express too faithfully the particular nuance found in "we are to". "Nous sommes être" is incorrect.

This form does not have a unique translation. For this instance itself there are several possibilities, each depending on the particular context.

  • From what I heard, when we reach Paris, we are to be wined and dined like kings and queens!

    • D'après ce qui a été dit, lorsque nous serons à Paris on peut compter sur des libations et des repas dignes de rois et reines.

    • D'après ce qui a été dit, lorsque nous serons à Paris il faut s'attendre à des libations et des repas dignes de rois et reines.

    • D'après ce qui a été dit, il est prévu pour nous à notre arrivée à Paris des libations et des repas dignes de rois et reines. (a likely candidate in the way of rendering the idea of pomp and circumstance)

A few other instances

  • If we are to be believed we'd better suppress this type of behaviour.
  • Si nous voulons être crus nous avons intérêt à réprimer cette sorte de comportement. ("si nous devons être" does seem to express the idea well.)
  • This car is not to be driven before its breaks have been repaired.
  • Il ne faut pas conduire cette voiture tant que ses freins n'ont pas été réparés. ("personne ne doit" is a real possibility.)
  • We are to get a small cut on this deal.
  • Il est prévu que nous obtenions un petit pourcentage sur cette affaire. ("nous devons" is possible in this context but weak.)
  • "He didn't even propose a little help, but I'll have my revenge, we are to meet again, I can feel it." said she.
  • « Il ne m'a même pas fait la moindre offre d'aide, mais je me vengerai, nous nous retrouverons, je le sens. » dit-elle. ("devoir" won't do in the present case.)
  • On peut compter sur and similar seem to me to stress the wrong point of view, so to speak. We are to be here indicates that someone else has made plans and they, not we, are the ones expecting and counting on things. My instinct would be something more along the lines of “lorsque nous serons à Paris, des libations et des repas dignes de rois et reines nous attendront (attendent?)” or something along those lines, but I’m not a native speaker, so that may not be idiomatic. (Incidentally, I’d naturally say “d’après ce qu’on m’a dit, quand on arrive à Paris…” – is that natural?) Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 18:16
  • @JanusBahsJacquet "on peut compter sur": "we might not be so interested, but it's a sure thing" or (enthusiastically) "it's a sure thing, so, in the mean time let's be sober". (I do not see anything that could be wrong; wrong on what ground?)// The use of "attendre", imo, precludes that of "lorsque": while they are on their way towards the city, the cocktail parties, meals and so on are already "waiting" for them, awaiting them (as you say, people have plans). As formulated, the sentence does not make precise whether the duration of these festivities is limited (1/3)
    – LPH
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet to a brief moment after the arrival or if it will extend over a longer span; in this latter case it seems that "attendre" is not so appropriate. // "d’après ce qu’on m’a dit, quand on arrive à Paris…" : that is quite natural and closer to the original, but presupposes (as, anyway, also does "D'après ce qui a été dit") that the people talking thus are not too well informed about what to expect, and are perhaps taking part in an organized tour; if that sort of entertainment is oftentimes rather expensive, it is not quite what most people associate with pump; (2/3)
    – LPH
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet so the initial sentence does not fit the case of pump too well. (3/3)
    – LPH
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:10
  • 1
    @GeoffPointer As you could mind small irregularities in your writing, I thought I'd tell you that in your profile post is found an occurrence of "both both".
    – LPH
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 6:55

are to be [past participle verb], is to be etc. This is not a simple idiom. It's complicated.

and here, it means:

2 - used for saying what has been arranged
The ceremony is to take place on the U.S.S. Missouri.

The dictionary says American English but this usage of "is to be/are to be [past participle] is also British English.

The Collins Dictionary says this can be: il a été décider de or il a été convenu que


Macmillan Dictionary

So: we are to be wined and dined like kings and queens!

can be translated in several ways:

  • Il a été décidé que nous serons [ou: nous allons être] fêtés commes des rois et des reines.

  • Il a été convenu que nous etc.

To see this more easily, think of: We are to be met at the airport by a car. That does mean: A car has been arranged to meet us at the airport.

[Please note the references for the French translation and the English meaning.]

  • But "it has been arranged" probably isn't the meaning of "we are to be" the OP wanted. As the OP says, it just means "we will be" with "extra pomp and circumstance." Dictionaries don't always give all possible meanings of every phrase. (il a été convenu ... would be a fine trnaslation of we are to be met at the airport ...) Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 10:55
  • @PeterShor If there is pomp and circumstance, someone has organized it or arranged it. Il a été convenu is in the Collins. I did say it can be translated several ways. There is nothing written in stone except that Nous devons être is not accurate.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 12:27

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