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English Grammar Reference: Used to / Would

Look at this sentence:

When I was a child I used to walk to school.

This means that in the past, when I was a child, I walked to school. I don't do it anymore.

subject

used to

base form

 

I

used to

study

for my exams during the night when I was at university.

My parents

used to

play

tennis together when they were younger.

We can also use the following form:

When I was a child I would walk to school.
"We'd go down to the river and into the river we'd dive." (Bruce Springsteen, The River)

subject

used to

base form

I

'd

study

for my exams during the night when I was at university.

My parents

would

play

tennis together when they were younger.

The meaning is exactly the same - we did something regularly in the past and we don't do it anymore.

We can also say:

When I was a child I used to live in a big house.

So we can use used to to talk about a habit in the past:

When I was a child I used to walk to school

and for a permanent situation in the past:

When I was a child I used to live in a big house.

But we can only use would to talk about a habit in the past:

When I was a child I would walk to school.

not a permanent situation in the past - When I was a child I'd live in a big house.