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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Used to & Would = Talking about the past    

Used to & Would = Talking about the past


Used to & Would = Talking about the past
Hei hei Nice People!
I want to teach my advanced Ss the difference of used to & Would when taking about the past. I ve explained that we can use would + infinitive in the same way as used to  to talk about past habits and repeated actions. And by the Grammar reference and practice in the Ss s book, we know that would is not used to describe past states. 

1st question: What are past states? ... 

In the sentence: "My granny says people used to be happier in the past." We can t use would because we re talking about a state, right? How about in the sentence: "Did you use to share a bedroom with your sisters?" Does the sentence express a state too? Why?

2nd question/doubt:

She used to have four pairs of sunglasses. = Is it a past habit? So can we use would and say: She would have four pairs of sunglasses?

In the Grammar reference and practice (Ss s book): "Althoght would and used to are similar, used to simply expresses a fact, while would emphasizes that the action is typical of a person or a situation."

3rd question: 

Leo didn t use to use his mobile much. = we can t use would because when talking about a past habit we only use would  in the affirmative. BUT would is used to emphasize an action that is typical of a person. Isn t this the case? Not using a mobile is typical of Leo, so can we write/say: Leo wouldn t use his mobile much???

Please, please, please... I m a bit confused! What are really the differences between used to and would

26 Oct 2014      


Why don t you try an adverb of frequency to see if it s a habit or not.

Can you say I usually live in Paris then you can t say I d live in Paris, can you?

The same applies to the word "share". I can naturally say "I usually share my stuff with my friends so you can of course say "I used to share a bedroom with my sisters."

If it can be repeated again and again and again then you can use would so you can t say she would have. You have to use she used to have.

26 Oct 2014     

United States

The basic thing here is that "would" is the past/conditional of "will".

"Share" is an action, not a state.
Consider this present/future situation:
Mother to daughters, "When we visit your grandparents, you will share a bedroom."
Daughter telling her daughters about her childhood, ""When we visited our grandparents, we would share a bedroom."

If you don t eat breakfast, you will get hungry before lunchtime.
I remember that on days I didn t eat breakfast, I would get hungry before lunchtime.

"Would" needs a situation.
I wasn t worried because I knew she woul have four pairs of sunglasses in her purse.

Again we need a situation.
Leo won t use his cell phone if he can use e-mail.
Leo wouldn t use his cell phone if he Could use e-mail.


26 Oct 2014