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Lesson Focus — Page 3 of 4

Would

Would is almost the same as used to. We can use it to talk about past actions that happened repeatedly, but that do not happen now.

Action

When Bob was a professional athlete, he practiced his sport every day.

When Bob was a professional athlete, he would practice every day.


Danger!
There are some important differences between used to and would.

We don’t use would to talk about situations. We only use it to talk about actions.

Correct: I used to be a teacher.

Incorrect: I would be a teacher.

Would does not always mean that the action never happens any more. Used to always means that the action does not happen any more.

When I was a child, I would eat cereal every day.

I still eat cereal every day. (Possible!)

I no longer eat cereal every day. (Possible!)


When I was a child, I used to eat cereal every day.

I still eat cereal every day. (Not true!)

I no longer eat cereal every day. (True!)

We usually use a time phrase when we’re using would, but we don’t have to use a time phrase when we’re using used to.

I used to smoke. (Clear!)

I would smoke. (Not very clear!)

When I was nervous, I would smoke. (Clear!)

Forms and Uses

Positive Negative
I used to be thin. I didn’t used to be thin.*

I didn’t use to be thin.*

I never used to be thin. (Most common!)
I would run to school. I wouldn’t run to school.

* both used to and use to are acceptable in the negative form