“Used To” and “Would” for The Past


Today’s lesson falls into both the categories of Grammar and Usage.  The terms Use To and Would can both be used to talk about the past.

However, since there are some different variations on how to use these two bits of grammatical gobbledygook, the text-books and teachers have been confusing students with this topic for centuries….  maybe even longer. 😀


But you’re smarter than they are, so let’s tackle this topic once and for all


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Here are a few simple ways to remember which to use, and for what situations…


For States of Being


This one is easy.  To talk about states of being:  thoughts, feelings, opinions, emotions, etc., and physical states of being, such as:  hair color, physical size, gender, place of residence, and a vast array of other such things…


WE ONLY USE USED TO


For Example:


“I used to live in Wisconsin.”

–  (However, now I don’t)

“I used to be a hippy.”

–  (However, now I am not)

“I used to think that Nicki Minaj had talent.”

–  (However, now I can see that, since she has become a brainless puppet for the fake-Illuminati conspiracy, she has become completely irrelevant and has nothing more, artistically, to offer to the world…  [although “Your Love” and “Massive Attack” will always be awesome!!!])


We would never say…


“I would be born in Milwaukee.”

“I would have dreadlocks, almost down to my butt.”

“I would think that Duran Duran was the best band in the world.”


Why?


  • First of All:  In some situations, it just doesn’t make sense*….  (I would be born…)
  • Secondly:  Using “Would” with states of being, puts the sentence or clause into the future, and makes the situation hypothetical.  Therefore, it would need to turn into a conditional phrase.

“I would have dreadlocks almost down to my butt, if I wanted people to think that I did nothing but smoke pot all day long.”

–  (but I don’t… so I won’t)

“I would still think Duran Duran was the best band in the world, if I was still in fourth grade.”

–  (but I’m not… so I don’t)  –  [notice the addition of the time-phrase “still”]


*Special Case:


It is possible to say:


“I would be born in Milwaukee to the parents of two young hippies, struggling to find a way in a world that would soon see all the idealistic hippies turn into superficial pretentious yuppies.”

BUT – This only works in the situation where-in, someone is writing about or speaking about his or her life, and wants to put the listener or reader into the time-line of the story.

This is an example of how creative writing and story-telling, break the “rules” of grammar for the sake of artistic expression.


For Repeated Actions or Habits In The Past


This is the situation where-in, it sometimes has been a little confusing for some people.  But there is absolutely no reason to be confused.  It’s really quite simple.

Unfortunately, almost all of the text-books and far too many people who are actually supposed to be helping you will tell you differently; saying something like:

“This is really tricky / difficult / confusing / etc.”


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Most Text-books will tell you that you can use either “Would” or “Used To” to talk about repeated actions or habits in the past.  Well… You can…  But there is more to it than that.


YOU CAN ALWAYS USE “USED TO


That’s EASY!!! – Just remember that whether it’s a state of being or a past action that doesn’t happen anymore, you can ALWAYS use “Used To”


For example:


“I used to smoke pot from the time I woke up in the morning, until I passed out early the next morning.”

–  (However, I don’t anymore) – PAST ACTION

“I used to think that I was crazy.”

–  (However, now I know that it’s actually the rest of the people in world who are crazy… not me) – STATE OF BEING

“I used be really afraid of ghosts and evil creatures following me up the stairs when I was going to my bedroom at night.”

–  (However, now I’m friends with the ghosts and evil creatures so they don’t scare me anymore) – STATE OF BEING


Now, this is the part that has been left out of EVERY text-book that I have ever worked with.  And (for some reason) is NEVER spoken about in any of the on-line lessons or videos that I have ever seen on the subject


Are You Ready?


Back To The Past - GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!


YOU CAN ONLY USE “WOULD” IF THERE IS A TIME EXPRESSION

(otherwise the statement is hypothetical and in the future)


For Example…


“When I was in high-school, I wore combat boots and would actually march home as if I was in the military.”

–  (“When I was in high-school” is the time expression)  –  PERIOD OF TIME

“When I was four years old, I would lie awake in my bed and watch the sparkly lights dance around my room”

–  (“When I was four years old” is the time-expression)  –  SPECIFIC PERIOD OF TIME


And To Use An Example From Before…


“I used to be really afraid of ghosts and evil creatures following me up the stairs when I was going to my bedroom at night, so I would run my ass off through the top half of the stairs so they wouldn’t catch me”

–  (“When I was going to my bedroom at night” is the time-expression)  –  SITUATIONAL TIME


If I Said…


“I would actually march home…”

“I would watch the sparkly lights…”


Or…


“I would run my ass off…”

…Without the time-expression* then whoever I was speaking to, would not know what the hell I was talking about (as there is no point of reference.)


*Special Case:


It is however, possible to use the phrases above, without the time-expression IF (and ONLY if) it is in answer to a question, wherein the time that the action was taking place is already known.


For Example:


What was one of the weirdest things that you used to do when you were a kid?

“I would actually march home from school as if I was in the military”

What is one of your favorite memories from your childhood?

“When I would lie awake in bed and watching the sparkly lights dance around my room”


In both of these examples, the time expression is in the question, so therefore it is not necessary to add it to the phrase using “would”.


SUMMARY


For States Of Being In The Past:

We can ONLY use USED TO


For Repeated Actions And Habits In The Past:

We can ALWAYS use USED TO

We can ONLY use WOULD IF there is a Time Expression.


SEE?…  THAT’S EASY!!!

😀

Have An Excellent Day!

😉

 

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The Teacher

The Man Known As "The Teacher" is the creator of - administrator for - and sole content contributor to - all that is GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!,  as well as a being a TEFL certified English teacher A Master of Ninja Invisibility and Jedi Mind Tricks, AND has a secret under-ground UFO bunker and Mad Scientist's Laboratory hidden deep in The Balkans where he currently resides with his beautiful wife and the formerly-homeless monkeys that have infested his apartment. He is also a Gemini and so is his evil twin ;)

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