2

Yesterday, I had a Grammar exam and I came across this question, I tried to look everywhere on the internet but I couldn't find anything related since "used to" always comes as a habit and followed with a contrast.

The sentence is "He used never to drink so much coffee, before he went to bed." According to the question, it must have two mistakes, so my answer was: "He used to drink so much coffee, before he goes to bed."

The exam now is nothing I'm worried about, I just want to benefit so I don't make a mistake again.

3
  • 1
    I would move never forward and drop the comma: "He never used to drink so much coffee before he went to bed." Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 13:55
  • So is it wrong to say: "I used to drink so much coffee before I go to bed." ? Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:29
  • There are minor grammatical problems, like consistent tense.... "before I went to bed" .............. also the use of "so much" is non-colloquial. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:48

2 Answers 2

2

Gary's Student gives you the answer your examiner was almost certainly looking for.

He never used to drink so much coffee before he went to bed.

The comma in the original marks before he went to bed as supplemental and thus an adjunct to the main clause; that implies, absurdly, that for a long time he did not go to bed and it was only when he finally did so that he started drinking coffee.

The placement of never in the original marks used as an ordinary catenating verb like want or hope. This is by no means ungrammatical, but today it is so rare that it almost has to be regarded as 'obsolete'. In present-day English we treat used to as an inseparable fixed phrase, virtually an independent 'modal' verb: useta, conjugated only in the past tense.

3
  • I really appreciate your time and thanks for the answer, but is it grammatically wrong to say: "He used to drink so much coffee before he goes to bed."? Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:39
  • @user265113 "before he went to bed" Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:50
  • @user265113 The tense in the adjunct doesn't matter much, because what you're doing is contrasting his former prebedtime consumption with his present prebedtime consumption; but to 'genericize' the time reference I'd be inclined to say before going to bed. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 20:47
0

Gary's answer is correct. Your sentence is grammatically incorrect and misleading. You could however say: I use to drink a lot of coffee before I went to bed (or before I'd go to bed).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.