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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Used to and would    

Used to and would


Used to and would
  Hello dear teachers!
Can anyone tell me the difference between "used to" and "would"? Can they be sometimes used in the same context?
Can I have some examples?
 Thanks in advanced.

20 Apr 2009      


As far as I know,both used to and would are used to talk about past habits,the difference is that you can use used to both with stative and action verbs,but you can �t use would with stative verbs, for example you can say:
We used to play marbles when we were children.  or,
We would play marbles when we were children.
But you can �t say :
I would have a car when I was young.

20 Apr 2009     


That �s how I explained this to my students too.

20 Apr 2009     

Russian Federation

"Would" is used for any repeated action in the past. "Used to" is for past habits which continued for a long time.

There were telling signs that he �d had too much to drink that night. On finishing his beer, he would stumble to the bar and order another. (The action was repeated, but only on that one night, so we can �t say "used to".)

I remember Mac. He used to come here every Friday and order a pint of bitter and, for some reason, a lemon and lime. (This was Mac �s usual habit, probably over a period of many years.)

20 Apr 2009     

United States

What a good question! �I never thought about that, so thanks Mexican teacher for bringing it up, and Carcade for the interesting answer!

21 Apr 2009     


Hi Mexican Teacher!
try to consider the following:

�used to�  is used:

1. To express a discontinued habit or a past situation which contrasts with the present.

a.     I used to smoke cigarettes; now I smoke a pipe.

b.     He used to drink strong black coffee; now he drinks tea.

c.     I used to study in a middle school; now I study in a secondary school. �used to� is not normally stressed, but it can be stressed if the speaker wishes to emphasize the contrast between past and present.

2. To express a past routine or pattern. Here we are not making a contrast between past and present; we are merely describing someone �s routine during a certain period. Very often there is a succession of actions, used to here is replaceable by would (but would cannot replace used to for a discontinued habit etc. as in 1 above), used to here is always unstressed.

Tom and Ann were husband and wife. Every morning Tom used to kiss Ann and set off for work. Ann used to stand at the window and wave goodbye. In the evening she used to welcome him home and ask him to tell her about his day.

If we use would we have: ==> Every morning Tom would kiss Ann and set off for work. Ann would stand at the window and wave goodbye etc.


21 Apr 2009