Used to & would

Form

Affirmative: used to + infinitive
Negative: didn’t use to + infinitive
Question: did + subject + use to

Meaning

  1. Used to is used to talk about habitual or regular actions or states in the past that are now finished.
    • I used to have a dog. (I had a dog in the past but I don’t have a dog now)
    • I used to play football every weekend but I don’t have time now.
    • Did you use to go swimming when you were at school?
    • I didn’t use to like action films, but I love them now.
    • I never used to like spinach. (but now I eat it every day)
  2. Would is also used to talk about habitual actions in the past, but not to talk about past states.
    • When I was young I used to go fishing with my father every summer. (correct)
      When I was young I would go fishing with my father every summer. (correct)
    • She used to have a house in the country. (correct)
      She would have a house in the country. (incorrect)

Pronunciation

See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.

The weak form of to is used in used to.

  • I used to cook: /juːstə/

Related grammar points

Past simple

5 teaching ideas

  1. Ke Aiwe says:

    I bring in pictures of myself and family members from now and the past, and discuss how we used to look, what we used to do, etc. compared to how we look, what we do now. Students seem to like the voyeurism aspect of peeking into their teacher’s life!

  2. Monica says:

    I bring in a variety of portraits and have my ss choose one and create a new identity based on that portrait. I ask them to write personal information about their new identity. Then I ask them to go around the class and talk with their classmates. They can introduce themselves (new identity) and talk about their past identity. For example,” I’m a teacher, but I used to be a business person.” They can also ask questions.

  3. Kally says:

    I usually write some bubbles with topics like food, drink, color, games, tv programs, words related to their habits or what they like nowadays. I ask two Ss for each bubble:

    “What color do you like? What do you like drinking? or what is your favorite drink?”

    After talking a while, ask them to close their eyes and play a well known song from their childhood. In Mexico, the most popular ones are Cri cri’s (Francisco Gabilondo’s) songs. So I guess in your own country there may be a popular singer or special children’s song – use it!

    After that, I introduce the new structure by telling them what I used to eat, drink, what my favorite color used to be and so on… Then, do the same process you did at the beginning but with the new structure.

  4. Naddy2004 says:

    I divide the board into two sides:

    1st side

    1990s
    Mark
    Job: postman
    Salary: …..
    Place of work: post office
    Means of transport: bike

    2nd side

    Now (present year)
    I explain that Mark has become a rich man because he won a lot of money
    Job: businessman
    Lottery ticket: 990 million
    Place of work: his own office
    Means of transport: car

    Then I present the new structure ‘used to’ by writing 2 or 3 sentences on the board.

  5. Jessica says:

    I ask students to draw a picture of themselves five years ago and now. But, before that, I show them my own drawings so they can laugh a little and through this, they feel motivated to draw; it doesn’t matter if they don’t have the ability to do it, just like me!
    After they draw their pictures, I explain to them what my activities and routines were five years ago, things I used to do and that I don’t do anymore.
    I have a difficult class and I learned that these kinds of activities are good for them to feel more secure and to pay attention for more than 5 minutes.

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