U4: Used to Vs would for Past


  
 

The 1st difference:  
To use would here, we need more information. Analyze these sentences:
v When I was young, I used to smoke.ü
(“Used to” describe permanent states in the past.)
v When I was young, I would smoke. X
(“Would” is not used to describe permanent states in the past.)
v When I was young, I used to smoke a cigarette after every meal.ü
v When I was young, I would smoke a cigarette after every meal.ü
v I used to have a lot of fun when I was younger. We would spend hours playing tennis in the court next to my house. ü
( Here, we’ve established the past time and the topic by using “used to or an expression like, “when I was a child” or “many years ago”.)
The 2nd difference:  
v I used to have a sports car, but not anymore.ü
v I would have a sports car, but not anymore. X
(Here, would is unacceptable because “have” includes the idea of owning, which is a state, not an action, although sometimes would is possible)
The 3rd difference:  
v When I was a child, I would sometimes feel afraid of the dark. Usually, I’d read until I fell asleep. And I would always leave the light on!
“Would” is often used with frequency adverbs (always, usually and sometimes).
The 4th difference:
Use used to to talk about repeated actions and events in the past - describes a past habit. "Used to" is usually best for a longer period of time.
·  The old man used to sit in a corner talking to himself for hours.
·  After dinner we all used to sit in the drawing room and chat.
Use would to talk about repeated actions and events in the past. "Would" can be used when the repeated events took place within a short time space of time.

·  The old man would sit in a corner talking to himself for hours
·  After dinner we all would sit in the drawing room and chat.
·  "For three days he would try calling her every hour, but he never got an answer and soon gave up." 
Analyze these other examples:
1.   My grandma used to live in Madrid. ü 
2.   Houses used to cost much less than they do now. ü (“cost” is a stative verb)  
3.   Houses would cost much less than they do now. X
4.   Sam used to seem quiet and distant in class. ü 
5.   Sam would seem quiet and distant in class. ü (“seem” is a stative verb, but would is possible.)

Exercises on "used to vs would"  Level 3

 

Remember: when we have already established the past time through expressions like “Do you remember how, when,…”, “For years…”, “Years ago…”, Before getting my driving license…” or “used to”, We usually use would.
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