What is the difference between these sentences? I read that all of them can be used in the same situation. So which to choose?

  1. When I was young I used to live in a house.
  2. When I was young I lived in a house.
  3. When I was young I was living in a house.

As Michael Swan suggests, in WHEN sentences the difference between Past Simple and Past Progressive is the usual use of the latter in narrations. Whereas in this very case, Past Simple is more preferred, but generally, if the action denote some past habit, then used to should be used. I used to be a good swimmer.

  • And Michael Swan is who? – Joost Kiefte Aug 2 '15 at 11:26
  • He is the author of 'Practical English Usage' and many other necessary for every teacher handbooks. – Turkan Alisoy Aug 2 '15 at 11:27
  • I don't have the full context for Swan's assertion, but my guess is the idea of Past Progressive being more likely in WHEN sentences applies specifically in contexts where "simultaneity" (multiple actions/events happening at the same time) is a central concept. But in OP's context, being young and living in a house are both "long-term" states, so PP isn't necessarily "favoured". And in fact although it wouldn't be "incorrect", I don't think it would be particularly likely in this specific context. – FumbleFingers Aug 2 '15 at 12:05
  • Yes, that is exactly what general rule says. But in the very case above, where we talk about living somewhere, the action which doesn't demand the usage of Progressive. I wrote about Swan's suggestion for this specific case. – Turkan Alisoy Aug 2 '15 at 12:09

"When I was young I used to live in a house" strikes me as a sentence that expresses a deviation from the norm or is indicative of something that makes one stand out from the crowd.

Many years ago most people lived in cardboard boxes, but when I was young, I used to live in a house.

The next one would perhaps be used in a more sequential way:

When I was young, I lived in a house. After I had made my first million, I moved to a castle.

The continuous form strikes me as the start of an exciting story:

When I was young, I was living in a house, and there was this man who one day came up the garden path, frothing at the mouth....


I used to live in a house.

The phrase "used to" is being used to say the something was true and it is not longer true.

I used to clean my house, but now I pay someone to do it for me.

The second sentence means that you lived in a house but it does not mean you dont live in a house now.

When I was young I lived in a house.

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