Words of Wisdom:

"I can do everything through God which strengtheneth me" - Hawaii80

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  • Date Submitted: 07/19/2013 01:01 PM
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BBC Learning English Ask about English 'Used to' and 'Would'
A question from Wojtek in Poland: I'm 30 years old. I've been studying English for four years and I haven't still known the difference between 'used to' and 'would'. I would be most grateful if you would explain it to me and give some examples.

Alex Gooch answers: Hi, Wojtek. Good question - a lot of students have trouble with the difference between 'used to' and '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 in one sentence sometimes only 'used to'. Let's start with some examples of 'used to' first. We might say,

"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.

Ask about English 'Used to' and 'Would' bbclearningenglish.com

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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 a moment. 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.

Now let's move on to 'would'. Here are some examples: "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."

Again, 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...

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