Habits and tendencies
IN THE PRESENT AND IN THE PAST
Habits in the Present
Habits in the present are normally expressed by the
Simple present + adverb of frequency or an adverb
I rarely go to a football match nowadays but I watch
football on TV as often as I can.
We buy a TV guide every Friday.
However, among other uses of the Future Simple,
will + infinitive can be used when we wish to
emphasize actions that are characteristic/predictable
of a person, habits and tendencies.
Will = tend to
When you ask Dad for money, he‟ll always say “no” at
He‟s strange – he‟ll sit for hours without saying
Present continuous + always, constantly, etc.: habits
that annoy us, surprise us or happen more often than
He‟s always leaving dirty clothes all over the place.
I like her because she‟s always making jokes. (no
Remember - page 21
Apart from some of the young people, most people
won‟t speak English.
You will have at least three, four coffees a day.
Habits in the Past
The most usual way of talking about habits in the
past is to use the simple past tense with an adverb of
frequency or an adverb phrase.
When I was younger, I went running every day.
As a student, she got up late every morning. (habit)
I lived in Austria for several years. (state)
Used to is used to describe past habits and states,
usually in contrast with the present. We use ‘used
to’ for something that happened regularly in
the past but no longer happens.
A time expression is not necessary.
I used to get up at six, but now I get up at eight.
Used to can also describe past states.
I used to own a horse. (I owned a horse once.)
Used to can be used in the affirmative, the negative
Note these forms:
I didn’t use to like beer.
Did you use to swim every day?
I used to read more in English than I do now.
I didn‟t use to waste so much time watching TV.
Which subjects did you use to like best at school?
You can use would („d) to talk about regular or
repeated actions in the past but not for states.
It is often used for personal reminiscences, and
sometimes suggests a feeling of nostalgia. An
expression of time is needed.
'When I was young, I used to visit my grandmother
every summmer.'→ ' When I was young, I would
visit my grandmother every summer.'
Note: Both of these sentences have the same
If the sentence is not about a repeated habit/action,
or does not include a time expression, we can not
'I used to play piano.'→'I would play piano.„
It is more natural to say:
'I used to play piano. I would practise every day.'
Would and used to
We don‟t use either used to or would when we say
exactly how many times something happened, how
long something took, or that something happened at
a particular time.
We visited Switzerland four times during the 1990s.
She went on holiday to the Bahamas last week.
In longer texts
In longer texts about past habits and routines, you
normally start with used to, then continue with
When I was younger, we used to go swimming every
weekend. Every Saturday we‟d get up at about 8
o‟clock, then our mum would help us pack our
swimming suits and our dad would prepare
sandwiches for us.
To emphasize the idea of habit or tendency, we often
use adverbials of frequency with these structures.
She‟ll often stop and talk to me.
She would cook a meal once in a blue moon.
He was always suggesting interesting ideas.
You can use will/would to express your annoyance
about the way someone typically behaves. In this
case, will is usually stressed and not contracted.
I was happy when Sam left. He would talk about
people behind their backs.
You can also use always + present or past
She is always telling the same old stories.