November 5, 2020

grammar used to vs. would

Used to vs. Would


Welcome back to the Art of Business English. This week we are brining you a short lesson on some grammar, “used to” vs “would”. This is more advanced level grammar, but it is easy to learn. So, let’s take a look at how you can use it to refer to past actions.

Watch the episode here

Used to

We use “used to” + bare infinitive (verb without “to) for:
Actions that happened regularly in the past but no longer happen.

  • We used to go fishing on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. 

States that existed in the past but no longer exist

  • There used to be a really quiet fishing spot that not many people knew about. 

Used to structure

Affirmative: Subject + used to + verb + object

Negative: Subject + did not + use to + verb + object

Interrogative: Did + subject + use to + verb + object?

Would

We use “would” + bare infinitive for regular actions in the past that we no longer do. We do not use it for past states.

  • Their boss would always offer them coffee whenever they came to the head office.
  • The twins were so close that they would often finish each other’s sentences.

Would structure

Affirmative: Subject + would + verb + object

Negative: Not commonly used in negative

Interrogative: Would + subject + verb + object?

Grammar extra

Note: 

  • Would is not commonly used in negative form when referring to past repeated actions
  • Would is also the conditional form of verbs in English, but is also used to talk about past repeated actions
  • Don't confuse used to with usually. Usually refers to something you do frequently in the present
  • Look at the table below to help you understand the meaning of affirmative and negative use of used to

Used to 

Past 

Present

Affirmative

Action happened

Action no long happens

Negative

Action didn't happen

Action does happen

Final thoughts


In conclusion, this is how we use "used to" and "would" to talk about past repeated actions and/or states in English. So, the next time you hear someone using "would" to refer to a past repeated action you will know that they are not talking about the conditional use but in fact about something they "used to" do. 


Please leave your comments below and feel free to ask me any question. 


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See you all next week and have fun improving your business English. 

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Andrew


Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

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