Would or Used To

Vocabulary | Confusables


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


Certain words in English are so alike that they confuse even native English speakers. Words like their and there for instance are often confused. The Activities here look in detail at some of the most common confusable words and give you plenty of explanation into how to use them correctly as well as plenty of exercises to help you avoid making mistakes in the future. 

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In 2010 I would make a new YouTube video English lesson every day. I called the series Daily Dose of English. Unfortunately, the series would never be as popular or as useful as I had hoped because it was too passive. I would later create the Britlish Library and find the software I needed to make my original vision for my lessons a reality. The Daily Doses of English were useful then and they are still useful today, but now I am able to make them into the active learning lessons that I used to dream about. This active English lesson looks at the verbs would and used to and shows you how to use them.

Before getting a bicycle, I would/used to drive a car whenever I wanted to go anywhere. Do you remember how your grandfather would/used to sit in that rocking chair and smoke his pipe every morning? Your sister used to have a house in London, didn't she? For many years we would/used to spend the summer holidays in Greece. For almost a year in 2010, I would/used to make a Daily Dose of English every day. When they first got married, they used to be very much in love, and then the children came along and ruined everything. Now they are divorced. My handwriting used to be very neat and elegant but these days, as I seldom write using a pen or pencil, it's become terrible. When I was a small boy, I used to be able to bite my own toenails, but these days I find it hard to put on my socks. If I say that I am used to teaching English in schools in Spain, I am not providing information about whether I still teach in schools but only that I have enough experience of it to be comfortable with it. Don't confuse be used to something with used to do something. They are not the same. I am used to teaching English using the latest technology but I used to teach English in a classroom. The first tells us that I have been doing something for a long time while the second tells us that I don't do it now. Note that with questions we use use to not used to, though they both sound exactly the same when we speak. Would I play chess on Fridays at school when I was younger? I did not use to hate spiders. This sentence says that I do hate spiders now, even though I did not hate them in the past. I would not always play chess on Fridays at school. I would always play chess on Fridays at school. You can see that adverbs always come after would. I did not make this clear enough in the video, but it is the key to understanding the difference between would and used to. Both are used to talk about something in the past that is no longer true, but only used to can be used with both state and action verbs. I used to live in England before I came to Spain talks about a state1. I used to play chess on Fridays at school talks about an action. I used to hate spiders talks about a state.

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