How to use Used to & Would

Learn about “used to” and “would” in English grammar. Clear and simple explanation of meaning and use, with examples.

Keith Taylor

Forming sentences with Used To and Would

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


  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)


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

Keith Taylor

Keith is the co-founder of Eslbase and School of TEFL. He's been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years, in Indonesia, Australia, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and now in the UK.

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  • Yenesew

    The difference between used to and would is that would is common in repeated past action not in state. However used to is both in repeated action and state or situation in the past.

  • Francesco

    “Used to” is USED TO talk about habitual or regular actions or states in the past that are now finished means that in the past we used “used to” to do that but now we don’t do it anymore?

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi Franceso

      “Used to” is used to talk about…
      – When we say is used to here, it is the passive form of the verb “use”.
      So if we change the passive form to the active form, we would say: We use “used to” to talk about…
      I hope this helps – you can read more about passive here:

      • Francesco

        Thanks :)

  • Deepa Tiwari

    Thankful for such enrichment

  • shima

    this is good information about (used to) i enjoy it and special thanks from you(tnx a lot)

  • Jessica

    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.

  • Naddy2004

    I divide the board into two sides:

    1st side

    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.

  • Kally

    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.

  • Monica

    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.

  • Ke Aiwe

    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!

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