Would vs Used To: Difference and Comparison

“Would” and “used to” are two distinct English words and phrase utilizations. They are also both used in the final stanza to refer to past acts, occurrences, or circumstances, particularly ones that no longer occur.

They can sometimes be used indiscriminately, although they normally have different meanings.

This article will assist you in understanding the distinctions between the usage of English words and contexts in various scenarios.

Key Takeaways

  1. Would is used to indicate a repeated action or habit in the past, while used to indicate a past state or situation that no longer exists.
  2. Would is used to describe hypothetical or imagined situations, while used to is used to describe a past reality.
  3. Would is a modal verb, while used to is a phrase that acts as a modal verb.

Would vs Used To

Would talk about past habits or actions that were voluntary, while used to talk about past habits or actions that were habitual or routine. Would is a word to describe hypothetical or conditional situations, while used to is used exclusively to talk about past habits or actions.

Would vs Used To

According to different write-ups and tapes of speech that linguists used to analyze this tendency, it is obvious that most individuals use “would” rather than “used to” when referring to probabilities owing to an accented sound.

Despite the widespread use of “would,” grammarians refuse to recognize the phrase as a linguistic norm since the combination violates the principles of modal verb tie-up.

‘Used to’, on the other hand, is a commonly used term spoken by many English speakers and is used in written English too.

This term, or rather a phrase, is used to signify the past tense and its reference to the present tense. Because the tenses commonly mislead casual speakers, this term is frequently mistaken or intermingled with the word ‘would.’

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonWouldUsed To
MeaningWould is the past tense of the word ‘will’, and it is very commonly used in colloquial English.The phrase “used to” refers to former events, situations, or acts.
EtymologyThe word ‘would’ was derived from Old English word; wolde, past of wyllan This is derived from the word “use,” which means “habit.”
Colloquial UsageThis term is used more than ‘used to’ in spoken and colloquial english. Sometimes the relevance to tense is skipped when speaking English and using this word.This term is less used colloquially when compared to the word ‘would’.
SynonymsEnjoin, decree, bid, authorize, etc are some synonyms of would.Habituated to, familiar to, accustomed are some synonyms of used to.
Examples1. I would choose not to sleep tonight.
2. I would never lie to her.
1. We used to have a great time playing soccer.
2. She used to work really hard.

What is Would?

Would is the past tense of the word ‘will’, and it is very commonly used in colloquial English. It is used when typical qualities or former behaviours are stated, such as When she was a youngster, she would spend hours playing with dolls.

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“Would” is used to describe previous events that are no longer occurring or have concluded, such as “When she was an adolescent, she would sleep late on Sundays.”

The most crucial point to note here seems to be that “would” is being used for acts or circumstances that are repeated again.

When she was an adolescent, between the ages of 13 through 19, she did the exact same thing on Sundays repetitively: she slept late. Here, we can see that the term ‘would’ replaces the continual situation the subject is going through.

The term ‘would’ and ‘used to’ might sound similar in some situations or sentences and hence can be interchanged however, this is not true every time.

Following are some examples to make you understand the usage and supplementation of the term would:

“On Sundays, she would sleep past noon when she was in school.”
“My brother stayed in Amsterdam for a long time, but he still came home for Christmas.”

Again, these phrases are about past events that have concluded.

However, it is vital to note that all of the phrases in this section are about events or circumstances that were repeated.

Sleeping till noon on Sundays, returning home for Christmas – all of this was done many times, again and again.


What is Used To?

This term is confused or interchanged with the word ‘would’ as the tenses confuse casual speakers.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means: “done or encountered in the past but no longer done or encountered”.

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The phrase “used to” refers to former events, situations, or acts, like as He used to reside in Manhattan before relocating to Alaska last year. “Used to” refers to conditions, events, and behaviours that have a long history.

They did not occur or stop abruptly, but they eventually finished and are no longer occurring, for example. He used to play badminton every Monday morning when he was a youngster.

It indicates that he continued playing badminton every Monday morning throughout his childhood. There is no suddenness in the activity; there is a continuance.

“Would” and “used to” can be used interchangeably; for example, when she had spare time, she “would” go shopping at the mall. Alternatively, when she was joyful, she “used to” go shopping at the mall.

However, there are some instances when they could be used simultaneously. For example, he used to reside in Amsterdam before moving to India.

The word “would” is not permitted in this context.

Main Differences Between Would and Used To

  1. The word ‘would’ signifies chances and past tense, whereas used to is used when signifying a single event or condition that happened for a long time.
  2. The term would is derived from the parent word ‘will’, whereas the word used to is derived from the present tense, i.e. ‘use to’.
  3. Synonyms of ‘would’ are exerting, authorize, decree, etc., whereas synonyms of used to are; habituated, familiar, adapted to, etc.
  4. Would is more commonly used colloquially than the term ‘used to’.
  5. The word ‘would’ replaces the term “again and again”, whereas the term is used to replace the actions that were happening for a long time in the past.
Difference Between Would and Used To
  1. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/used-to
  2. https://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/would

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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11 thoughts on “Would vs Used To: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I find it amusing that despite the widespread use of ‘would,’ grammarians refuse to recognize the phrase as a linguistic norm.

    • Definitely, the article’s detailed breakdown of the differences helps you understand how each word should be used in different contexts.

  2. The information about the origin and etymology of both words was very interesting. It really enriched my understanding of the topic.

  3. I like how the article provides clear examples of proper usage of would vs used to. This will really help me to fully understand the differences between the two.


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