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 grammaticalgobbledygook, the text-books and teachers have been confusing students with this topic for centuries…. maybe even longer. 😀
But, you are smarter than they are, so let’s tackle this topic once-and-for-all
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“
“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 the songs: “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 thatDuran Duranwas the best band in the world.”
First of All: In some situations, it just doesn’t make any 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”]
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 & Story-Telling, “break the rules” of Grammar for the sake of Artistic Expression.
“Used To” And “Would” 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, instead tell You differently; saying something like:
“This is really tricky / difficult / confusing / etc.”
Most Text-books and Teachers will state 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 is a “State Of Being”, or A Past Action that doesn’t happen anymore — You can ALWAYS use “Used To”
“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 is actually the rest of the people in The World who are the crazy ones… not Me) — “STATE OF BEING”
“I used be really afraid of ghosts & evil creatures following me up the stairs when I was going to my bedroom at night.”
– (However, now I have made friends with the ghosts & evil creatures so that 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?
YOU CAN ONLY USE “WOULD” IF THERE IS A TIME EXPRESSION
(otherwise the statement is hypothetical, and in the future)
“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 & 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 would not be able to 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…”
“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.)
It is, however, possible to use the phrases above, without the time-expression IF (and ONLY if) it is in answer to a question — where-in the time that the action was taking place is already known.
“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”.
For “States Of Being” In The Past:
We can ONLY use “USED TO“
For Repeated Actions & Habits In The Past:
We can ALWAYS use “USED TO“
We can ONLY use “WOULD“IF there is a Time Expression.