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First, is my question right? Does amongst fit here?

Please differentiate the above phrases.

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4  
I would go with "difference between". There is not a single occurrence of "difference amongst" in the British National Corpus, and while Google does return 25,700 hits for "difference amongst", it returns 74,100,000 hits for "difference between". –  RegDwigнt Oct 21 '10 at 8:32
    
Are 'difference' and 'amongst' based on the count?? This questions generates more child questions. :-( –  San Oct 22 '10 at 13:35
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I have used cocaine.

I took cocaine at least once sometime in the past.

I was using cocaine.

In the past, I was a habitual user of cocaine. EDIT: As the comment says, this can also mean a process in the past, e.g. "I was using cocaine when the accident happened" can mean "I was not looking at the road since I was snorting cocaine."

I have been using cocaine.

Starting some time in the past, and including today, I use cocaine.

I had used cocaine.

With my reference point at a time in the past, by that point, cocaine was already taken by me. Better example:

By the time I met my girlfriend, I had used cocaine.

So when meeting the girlfriend, you took cocaine by then already.

BONUS: You missed one:

I had been using cocaine.

Meaning, with a reference point in the past, starting a time before then up to the reference point, I was habitually using cocaine up to and including that point.

Why not put in some other wonky tenses?

I will have used cocaine.

I will have been using cocaine.

Here is a link conjugating it in all its tenseful glory.

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4  
"I was using cocaine" may not indicate habitual use, but instead may refer to one's state at a particular time: "When I got into the accident, I was using cocaine." –  J.T. Grimes Oct 21 '10 at 5:44
    
nice coke reference :) –  roman m Oct 21 '10 at 21:40
    
@Claudiu Is your lastname EyeOpener?? :-D Thanks for the great examples. I think the link would satisfy many of the questions. Thanks a lot. –  San Oct 22 '10 at 13:38
1  
"I used to use cocaine" -- a previous habit which has ceased. –  khedron Oct 25 '10 at 14:57
1  
@khedron: that's not a different tense, though, that's using a different construction ("I used to ...") . –  Claudiu Oct 25 '10 at 16:33
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