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When learning about "used to" and "would" that refer to past habit.

They said that "would" is not possible when talking about past state. Even in this, they include "own", "drive" as past state

So what is past state?

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closed as not a real question by tchrist, kiamlaluno, MετάEd, Bradd Szonye, RegDwigнt May 27 '13 at 0:10

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@Those who downvoted: I want to ask what past state is, especially when using with "would". Isn't this a real question ??? –  onmyway133 May 27 '13 at 2:33

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your sources distinguish verbs and sentences which express two different aspects of action over time in the past:

activities which are performed repeatedly over time
states which continue unchanged over time

Drive, in the examples below, expresses an activity: over time you may drive again and again, day after day. You may use either would or used to to express this:

 When I was in graduate school I used to drive to Nashville every month or so.
 When I was in graduate school I would drive to Nashville every month or so.

Own expresses a state: when you own something you do not own it again every day, you own it continually from the time you obtain it until the time you dispose of it. You may only use used to to express this, not would:

 I used to own a little green MGB.
I would own a little green MGB.

Note however that many verbs can express either a state or an activity. Drive, for instance, may be used to name the car which you regularly employed:

 I used to drive a little green MGB.

In this case, drive is stative: what the sentence describes is not an activity which you performed again and again but a continuing relationship between you and the MGB. Consequently, you may not use would in this sentence:

I would drive a little green MGB.

But if you shift the topic from the relationship to the activity, you may once again use would:

 I would drive a little green MGB to Nashville every month.


marks an utterance as unacceptable

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