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Past habit would

Past habits are things done in the past on a repeated basis that are not done now.

When talking about past habits, English speakers have a choice between:

  • past simple

  • used to

  • would

In this blog post, we'll look at using would to talk about past habits.

The easy bit

Would is a modal verb (it is the past form of will) and is followed by the infinitive.


He would talk too much.

The tricky bit

Many learners find it easier to use the other options (past simple and used to) to talk about past habits.

Even though would is a past tense verb, it is often used to talk about the present or the future.


I would like a drink. (Refers to the present)

If I won the lottery, I would buy a grand piano. (Refers to the future)

It can be difficult for students to use would to talk about the past, especially if it isn't used like this in their first language.

What about contractions?

Good question, remember that would can be contracted to just the letter d.


We'd sit outside watching the world go by.

Where can I see authentic examples of past habit would?

Try listening to Adele's song, Set Fire to the Rain or read interviews with people in which they talk about past habits. Here is an interview with pop singer Nicola Roberts where she talks about growing up.

How do I practise it?

Write an answer to the following question. Try to use a mix of past simple, used to and would.

Where did you go on holiday when you were a child and what things did you usually do?


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