English Lesson: Past Habits with Used To & Would

Michael Uncategorized 4 Comments

 

Joe Carbone & Pete Rogine playing at a little Italian restaurant on a snowy New York night in January 2011

As I mentioned the other day, I used to listen to jazz all the time, especially jazz guitarists. I would listen to such artists as Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass all the time and try to play along with the records. Of course, I also used to take guitar lessons, even though I was also a teacher. At that time, most of my students liked rock music, but I would introduce them to many kinds of guitarists and musicians, like the two guitarists in the video clip here.

When we talk about past habits, conditions or states that were true in the past we use used to. Would can also be used to talk about past actions. Do you know how to use this grammar? Take a look at the paragraph above and then check today’s lesson.

When you talk about something you did in the past, or something that was generally true in the past you can use used to + base verb. So when talking about past actions or conditions, use used to + base verb, like this:

  • I used to listen to jazz all the time. ← used to listen is a past action
  • We used to go to the beach every weekend. ← used to go is a past action
  • Joe used to live in Brooklyn. ← used to live is a past condition
  • I used to know the names of all of the players on the Yankees. ← used to know is a past condition

When you talk about something you did in the past (past actions), you can also use would + base verb. However, would + base verb  is only used for past actions, and not for past states or conditions:

  • I would listen to such artists as Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass all the time. ← would listen is a past action.
  • I would introduce them to many kinds of guitarists and musicians. ← would introduce is a past action.
  • My grandfather would tell us stories about his life in Italy. ← would tell is a past action.

*Don’t use would for past conditions. This doesn’t work in English:  Joe would live in Brooklyn

When asking questions about past habits or conditions, we prefer to use used to:

  • Where did you use to live?
  • Did you use to like Jazz when you were in high school?
  • When did you use to go to the gym?

What did you used to like to do when you were a child? Where did you used to live?  Thanks for studying with me today.

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