Would vs. Used To

Would can be used to talk about past habits and typical characteristics.

  • She would always carry an umbrella.
  • He would often go for long drives.
  • Her days would start at 5.30 and then she would dust, clean, wash, cook and iron.
  • The old man would sit in a corner talking to himself for hours.
  • When we were kids we would go swimming every Sunday.
  • She would often bring us nice gifts.
  • They would rarely talk to each other.
  • She would rarely step out of his room.

In most cases, it is possible to express these ideas using used to.

  • She used to always carry an umbrella.
  • He used to go for long drives.
  • She used to get up at 5.30.
  • When we were kids we used to go swimming every Sunday.
  • She used to bring us nice gifts.

Difference between would and used to

Used to can be used to talk about past states which are now finished. Would cannot be used to refer to past states.

  • That heritage hotel used to be a royal palace.
  • There used to be a library down the street.


  • That auditorium used to be a cinema theatre. (= The building was once a cinema theatre, but now it is an auditorium.)
  • The manager said that the auditorium would be a cinema theatre. (= The building is now an auditorium, but it is going to be a cinema theatre.)

Notice how the meaning becomes diametrically opposite.

Note that would is the past tense form of will in indirect speech.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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