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  • Using Would and Used to in English Video and Exercise

    English language learners are often unsure about using “would” and “used to” to express past times, so they rarely use them.  If you are an English language learner and you want your speech and writing to sound more natural, learning how to use ‘would’ and ‘used to’ for past times will help a lot.

    Here is an example of a past story by an English language learner:

    When I was a teenager I went to heavy metal concerts every weekend. I picked up my friends and we took a taxi to the stadium. We saw a different band every weekend. We went to eat after the concert and we arrived home early the next morning around 3 or 4 am. The next day we always slept until 1 in the afternoon. Then we ate Sunday dinner with our family. That was a good time in my life.

    Now here is that same paragraph but told like a native English language speaker:

    When I was a teenager I used to go to heavy metal concerts every weekend. I would pick up my friends and we’d take a taxi to the stadium. We’d see a different band every weekend. Normally we’d go eat after the concert. We’d usually get home early the next morning around 3 or 4 AM. The next day we’d sleep until 1 in the afternoon and then we’d eat Sunday dinner with our family. That was a good time in my life.

    Notice that the story is introduced by  ‘used to’ and then the subsequent actions are using would.

    There are times that ‘would’ is incorrect in the past:

    When I was a child I would hate onions. NO. We must only use ‘would’ in the past for ACTIVE verbs. Confused? Watch the video below and do the exercises.

    Rewrite the exercises using ‘would’ or ‘used to.’ Write your answers in comments, and we’ll respond.

    1. When I was young I went to my grandmother’s farm every summer.

    2. When I was first married I made breakfast for my husband every morning.

    3. My husband didn’t like eggs for many years.

    4. She worked at IBM for many years before retiring.

    5. You ate here a lot during your first year at university.

     

    • Olga

      1. When I was young I would go to my grandmother’s farm every summer

      2. When I was first married I would make breakfast for my husband every morning.

      3. My husband didn’t like eggs for many years.

      4. She used to work at IBM for many years before retiring.

      5. You used to eat here a lot during your first year at university.

      • LOIEnglish

        Excellent work Olga. Number 3, you can use ‘use to’ in the past with didn’t. The correct usage is: My husband didn’t use to like eggs. Your sentence is correct as well. We can not use would for past actions. Thanks for answering!

    • Ariana Cella Ribeiro

      1. When I was young I would go to my grandmother’s farm every summer.

      2. When I was first married I would make breakfast for my husband every morning.

      3. My husband used to didn’t like eggs for many years. ????

      4. She used to work at IBM for many years before retiring.

      5. You used to eat here a lot during your first year at university.

      • LOIEnglish

        Ariana…Number 3 is incorrect. In a negative sentence we use: didn’t use to. So the correction is: My husband didn’t use to like eggs.

    • simicpetar

      1. When I was young I would go to my grandmother’s farm every summer.
      2. When I was first married I would make breakfast for my husband every morning.
      3. My husband used to hate eggs for many years.
      4. She used to work at IBM for many years before retiring.
      5. You used to eat here a lot during your first year at university.

      Let’s put passive verbs aside for a moment.

      Did I get it correctly: if we have some kind of introduction in a sentence, e.g. “When I was young… / When you lived there… / When I was your age…”, then we should use “would”.
      And if the verb goes “unintroduced” — then we use “used to”, as an actual introduction to a sentence (and a whole story afterwards, if there is one).

      So it’s:

      “I used to work here.”, but
      “When I was your age kid, I would work here.”

      • LOIEnglish

        You answered all the questions correctly. We can leave the adverbial time phrases off when we use ‘would’ or ‘used to.’
        i.g. My husband used to hate eggs. You don’t need ‘for many years.’

        In regards to the ‘active’ or ‘nonactive’ verbs. You CANNOT use ‘would’ with ‘nonactive’ verbs.
        You CANNOT say: When I was young I would live with my mother. This is incorrect. You can say: I used to live with my mother.

        Now…Your example…with WORK as the verb is very tricky. I had to do some research and talk to several of our teachers. Our teacher Dianna had the best explanation of why you CANNOT say: When I was your age kid, I would work here.

        The verb ‘work’ in this context is a ‘permanent state’ rather than an activity.
        I used to work here…is possible as a past state now discontinued.
        When I was at university, I would work all night to finish my assignments. This sentence is possible because it is clearly an activity.
        I would work there every weekend is possible as it is a temporary activity/habit..a part time job.

        There are a few verbs ‘live’ and ‘work’ that can be a permanent state or a temporary action/activity/habit. So you must consider the context in which they are used.

        I hope this helps!

        • simicpetar

          It does, definitely! Thanks for the response. And HUGE thanks for the research, I believe we all got your points 😉
          However, one “rule” still remains unclear to me, so let’s try with a different verb (and e.g. our 5th sentence):

          Is it “You used to eat here a lot during your first year at university.”, but
          “During your first year at university, you would often eat here.” ?

          We have to use “used to” in the 1st example, and we have to use “would” in the 2nd one, am I correct?

    • Elena

      1. When I was young I would go to my grandmother’s farm every summer.

      2. When I was first married I used to do breakfast for my husband every morning.

      3. My husband used not to like eggs for many years.

      4. She used to work at IBM for many years before retiring.

      5. You used to eat here a lot during your first year at university.

      • LOIEnglish

        Elena,

        Good work. You have a couple errors. The first is in Number 2: I used to MAKE eggs for my husband. You can have a look at our post about do/make: http://www.skypeenglishclasses.com/skype-english-blog/do-or-make-the-rules-and-a-lot-of-exceptions/

        Number 3: The correction is: My husband didn’t use to like eggs. Notice that I left off the for many years because ‘used to’ implies that it is a long period of time. Also take note that when we use ‘didn’t’ we drop the ‘D’ on the end.

        Number 4: You an drop ‘for many years’ She used to work at IBM before retiring.

        Hope this helps! Thanks for answering!

    • Ilka

      1. When I was young I used to go to my grandmother’s farma every summer.

      2. When I was first married I used to make breakfas for my husband every morning.

      3. My husband didn’t use to like eggs for many years.

      4. She used to worke at IBM for many years before retiring

      5. You used to eat here a lot during your fist year at university.

      • LOIEnglish

        Ilka…very good. The only mistake I see is that when we use ‘used to’ we can drop the time references because it becomes redundant. For example: My husband didn’t use to like eggs. (dropped for many years) Also: She used to work at IBM before retiring. (dropped for many years)

        • Ilka

          Thank you so much. Can I say the same sentences this way?

          1. When I was young I would go to my grandmother’s farma every summer.

          2. When I was first married I would make breakfast for my husband every morning.

          4. She would work at IBM for many years before retiring.