English as a Second Language/English phrase


Hi Amy,

How are you? Please help me to understand the following English phrase:"There was nice work to be done."
Unfortunately, I don't quite understand this phrase: is it about the future or the past?  

To refer to the present or future, I believe it should be, as There is nice work to be done.
To refer to the past we use perfect infinitive: "There was nice work to have done."

I am so confused and I'm trying to understand but I can't. So without your help there is no way out of that.

Thank you very much for your help, Amy!

Hey Alex,

somehow your question ended up in the question pool instead of in my inbox ...at least that is where I picked it up from.

There was nice work to be done.

The sentence is correct.

Indeed "There is nice work to be done" talks about the future, but so does your initial sentence.
It refers to the future using the time of speaking (the past) as a reference.

There was (at that time in the past) some nice work to be done (in the future, from that (past) point on).

I hope this helps.


English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker


I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.


I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

BSc MEd TESL post grad program for k-12 TESL post grad program for adult ed

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