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How to Talk About Past Habits in English

Do you know how to use PAST SIMPLE, USED TO, and WOULD?

In this lesson, we will talk about past habits. Past habits are something you did in the past but don’t do now.

Past Simple + time word/expression for Past Habits

Think about when you were 10 years old.

What did you like to do?

I played basketball twice a week.

I went to visit my grandparents every summer.

In the first sentence, the verb “played” is in the past simple. The time expression is “twice a week.” 

I played basketball twice a week when I was 10. I don’t play basketball now. This is a PAST HABIT.

In the second sentence, the verb “went” is in the past simple. The time expression is “every summer.

Used to + infinitive for Past Habits

We can use “used to” to say the same sentences as before.

I used to play basketball when I was 10.

I used to visit my grandparents every summer.

These are actions I did in the past, that I don’t do now.

Be careful! Don’t write the “d” in “used” when you are asking a question or using the negative.

I didn’t use to play soccer.

Did you use to visit your cousins?

You can also use “used to” with a state verb.

I used to have a dog.

State verbs are verbs that talk about a state, not an action. You cannot start or stop a state verb easily. 

Examples of state verbs: like, hate, believe, prefer, need, suppose…

Would + infinitive for Past Habits

We can use “would” to say the same sentences as before.

I would play basketball twice a week.

I would visit my grandparents every summer.

Would + infinitive is ONLY for ACTION verbs.

Incorrect: I would have a dog.

Correct: I used to have a dog. I had a dog when I was 10.

Practice

Complete the sentences with past simple / used to / would. Then, write what the person does now using present simple.

  1. My brother _____________________ (play) with toys every night after dinner. Now he ____________________.
  2. I ________________ (live) in Argentina when I was younger. Now I ___________________.
  3. My best friend ______________ (talk) to me on the phone for hours. Now my best friend ____________________.
  4. The singer  ____________ (drink) some water before every concert. Now the singer __________________.
  5. My mother  _________________ (have) long hair. Now my mother ______________.

You can find the answers to the practice at the bottom of this post.

Good job!

I hope you liked this lesson. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Check out this guide to easy Au Pair English.

If you are preparing for the Cambridge B2 First (FCE) exam, try these lessons:

Email/Letter Writing Guide for FCE

B2 First Speaking Part 1 Lesson

Second and Third Conditional Grammar Lesson


Pin this image on Pinterest under LEARN ENGLISH to help you remember this lesson!

Past Habits in English Infographic

Answers

  1. played / used to play / would play. Suggested answer: Now he plays video games every night after dinner.
  2. lived / used to live. Suggested answer: Now I live in Spain.
  3. talked / used to talk / would talk. Suggested answer: Now my best friends texts me for hours.
  4. drank / used to drink / would drink. Suggested answer: Now the singer drinks tea with honey before every concert.
  5. had / used to have. Suggested answer: Now my mother has short hair.
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