I'm sorry the title makes little sense but I don't know how to phrase it differently.

In a sentence like

When I was a kid, I'd go to school every morning

the 'd stands for I used to, right?

But what about this one:

Roy’s father, Rudy, was a middle manager at Standard Oil. He’d emigrated from Germany a few years earlier, after serving with Hitler’s army on the eastern front, where he’d spent several months in a Russian POW camp.

  1. 'd is a contraction for... what?
  2. what is the difference between he'd emigrated and a simple he emigrated?
  3. are there any other cases of grammatical structures like <pronoun> + 'd + <verb> diffent then the two I mentioned?


  • I'd ( I had, I would, I should): merriam-webster.com/dictionary/i'd – user66974 Feb 17 '15 at 3:46
  • @Josh61 right but in the latter sentence you can't replace 'd with any of them: he had emigrated, he would emigrated and he should emigrated would all be wrong, so I'm still confused. – laurids Feb 17 '15 at 3:52
  • In your first sentence I'd stands for 'I would go' ( not used to). In the second one he'd stands for 'he had'. – user66974 Feb 17 '15 at 3:57
  • 2
    It doesn't stand for I used to -- rather, it stands for I would, and that means I used to. The contraction -'d can stand for either would (if followed by an infinitive) or had (if followed by a past participle). In the case you present, spent is a past participle, so -'d stamds for had. – John Lawler Feb 17 '15 at 4:40
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    Yes you can replace with "he had emigrated", and that would be correct. – Brian Hitchcock Feb 17 '15 at 8:55

First question: The "'d" can stand for "would" or "had." As mentioned in the comments, your first example uses the "'d" to stand for "would," which can be a conditional ("I would go to the movies if anything good were playing.") or an equivalent to "used to." ("When I was a little boy, I would buy an ice cream at the corner store every day, even in the dead of winter.")

Second question: The narrative of the paragraph is set at the time Rudy was a middle manager at Standard Oil. The action "He'd emigrated from Germany" also took place in the past, but earlier than the setting of the paragraph. In other words, you are explaining how he got to America to be a manager at Standard Oil; you are backtracking in time. That is the correct usage of the past perfect (had + past participle). The simple past ("he emigrated") is just an action set in the past without any such backtracking. That being said, many native speakers of English use the simple past in place of the past perfect in casual conversation ("He emigrated..." in the paragraph you gave). This is not considered a grievous error, but should be avoided in formal writing or speech.

Third question: The present perfect ("He has emigrated") can be shortened to "He's emigrated." Note that the "'s" stands here for "has," but might stand for "is" in other constructions; i.e. "He's waiting."

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