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Used to / would
• We use both of these to talk about things in the past which we
don't do now or are not happening now.
• Sometimes both 'used to' and 'would' are OK - sometimes only
Some examples of 'used to‘
"I used to live in Manchester, but I moved to London last year."
"When he was at school, he used to play football every Saturday."
"She used to hate her job until she got a promotion."
All of these sentences describe actions or situations in the past, which are
finished now; living in Manchester, playing football every Saturday, hating her
job - these are all finished now.
• We use 'used to' to talk about
actions or situations that
continued for some time in the
past, not for events which
happened suddenly or just for
• So we can't say: 'I used to
have a really good idea when I
was brushing my teeth this
morning,' because 'having a
really good idea' happens
suddenly - in one moment.
• Here are some examples using 'would':
• "When he was at university, he would sleep
until noon at the weekends."
"My sister lived in Australia for many years, but
she would always come home for Christmas."
"I would always forget my homework, until the
teacher threatened to punish me."
• These sentences are about situations in the
past, which are finished.
• However, it's important to notice that all the
sentences, here, are about actions or
situations which were repeated again and
again and again.
• Sleeping until noon at the weekends, coming
home for Christmas, forgetting my homework -
all these things were repeated many times,
again and again and again.
• This is the difference between 'would' and
'used to' -
We only use 'would' to describe actions or
situations that were repeated again and
again and again...
But we use 'used to' for any extended
action or situation in the past.
• 'Would' is only good for actions or
situations that were repeated many times;
'Used to' is good for any action or situation
that continued for a period of time in the
past, including repeated actions or
Look at the three examples of 'used to' sentences, and
see if we can change them into 'would' sentences.
• Here's the first example again:
"I used to live in Manchester, but I moved to
London last year."
Can we use 'would' instead of 'used to' here?
No, we can't, because 'living in Manchester'
wasn't repeated again and again and again.
• It's simply a situation in the past. Therefore,
only 'used to' is good in this sentence.
• The second example again:
" When he was at school, he used to play football every
Here, we're talking about 'playing football every
Saturday'. This is an action that was repeated many
times, so we can also say:
"When he was at school, he would play football every
• 'Used to' and 'would' are both good here, and the
meaning is the same.
• Finally, the third example
"She used to hate her
job until she got a
Did she 'hate her job'
No, this isn't a repeated
action, so in this example
'would' isn't possible. We
have to use 'used to'.
“My parents used to take us out for
dinner every Sunday night for dinner
(and ice cream, sometimes, if it was
summer). Both parents worked, so we
didn't often do family meals during the
week. We would talk, play games
(mostly educational trivia), and enjoy
each other's company. “
• “I grew up in Georgia, and my
grandparents live in Florida. I used to go
down and stay with them for a month or 6
weeks in the summer. Some of my favorite
times were on Sunday mornings when my
grandfather would pick me up after
Sunday school in his old Dodge truck and
we would drive down to the river, stopping
at a convenience store along the way to
pick up some little snack or toy.”
“My dad would sometimes come and take
me out of school at lunch time and we'd go
to lunch together.”
“My favourite uncle would always sit down
and talk with me for an hour when he
visited but he never talked down to me. He
treated me as a little adult.”
“My mom used to do cartwheels with us on
our front lawn. “
“Our family would have contests to see who
could get the crunchiest fried potato at