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Past habits

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Catherine Catherine | 15:59 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Well it sounds like you and your mates had a great time in Goa. After reading about your visit, it has certainly gone up in my estimation. It's good to see you've used a couple of the vocabulary items from my last blog - keep it up!

Good to see you have done your homework, Pravin!

Here is your original sentence: ...do Visit, Coastal side of Maharashtra state, where you will find some of the great fort which was conquered by 'The Great Chattrapati Shivaji'

And here is the corrected version: ...do visit the coastal side of Maharashtra state, where you will find some of the great forts which were conquered by 'The Great Chattrapati Shivaji'

We need to add the because we are saying exactly which side of Maharashtra state the forts are on. And because you have used a plural determiner some of, the noun that goes with it needs to be plural too. Finally, I've corrected a couple of capital letters and taken out an unnecessary comma. Well done to everyone who did the homework, most people did a sterling job.

Turning to the language in your latest blog, I like the way you've used several different grammatical structures to describe your trip to Goa.

Your use of the simple past tense is spot on: ...it was real fun. We stayed there for almost 2 days.

And you've used 'would + infinitive' perfectly to describe a past habit: Then we would start our expedition to explore Goa [...] we would go to [the] pub.
But you need to tweak this sentence: '...we use to go to beach...'

'Used to + infinitive' is a great way to talk about past habits. In positive sentences you need to say used to with d. Negatives and questions don't have d.

Here are all 3 forms:
Positive: We used to go to the beach
Negative: We didn't use to go to the beach
Question: Did you use to go to the beach?

For more information about 'used to' for talking about past habits, take a look at this edition of Ask About English where Alex explains the difference between 'used to' and 'would'.

This week's homework, Pravin and everybody, is to write a short paragraph about your childhood. I'd love to hear about some of the things you used to do when you were small... make sure you practice 'used to' and 'would' in your paragraph, and feel free to ask me some questions about what I used to do in my childhood... I'll ask my mum to help me to answer some of them next time!

Have a great weekend Pravin, and everyone else in our blogging community!

Useful vocabulary

mates - friends
gone up in my estimation - I have a higher opinion of this now
keep it up - continue doing this
did a sterling job - did the task very well
spot on - perfect


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi people!!! My name is Alejandra. I am living in Brasil and I would like to improve my writting english. I am doing master degree and English is very importante.

  • Comment number 2.

    If i was shild i used to hate playing with girl although im a girl :and i used to enjoy playing the hard games like football and climbing;And i would always sing with my friends every evening after school.
    Hi catherine ;did i practise "used to "and "would to" correctly?And what about you?I really want to know the games whose you used to practise when you were shild.

  • Comment number 3.

    What makes this homework tricky is to remember what I was used to do in my childhood. My childhood was wonderful. I was brought up on the countryside in a little village located in Northern Germany. Not very far away from my parent´s house there was a small river. Every summer my sisters and I would swim in this river whenever it was possible. At the river there were a lot of trees. We were used to jump from this trees into the water again and again. Maybe this sounds a little bit dangerous, but I never got injured (only almost drowned twice, but my parents still don´t know this...).

    This village was a great place for bringing up children. I have been living in a huge town for more than 10 years now, but I still visit my parents and spend some time at the river. But I don´t jump from the trees anymore. Maybe I should try again this summer.

    Hi Catherine; did you jump from trees in your childhood?

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi friends
    Ooh mis Catherine you are reminding me the old days,the most beautiful days in my life , here is my answer :
    I was not a human kid , I was a devil in a human body. When i was at 8 old i used to steal some commodities from the shops, not because i needed them,but to show myself i could do it . i would steal my family when they sent me to exchange their money to play at the amusement hyde park. I would try to smoking, however i didn't like it and thanks god i haven't used to smoke . *
    Mis Catherine as you are a teacher, did you use to play a teacher role in front a mirror when you was a kid ?

  • Comment number 5.

    ahhhhh i did a stupid writing fault , correction :Mis Catherine as you are a teacher, did you use to play a teacher role in front a mirror when you were a kid ?

  • Comment number 6.

    Hello Catherine
    Thank you for your tips!
    I used to play baseball when I lived in NYC.
    On the other hand, I would smoke a quick fag during the breaktime when I studied at the College.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello Catherine and all the other peoples of the forum ,
    Very interesting homework this week. I've to do a great effort to remeber my childhood since I'm 45 years old. I remember that I used to live in a small city where we would play football and ride the bike in the street. I remeber that after the homework a lot of child would meet together in the street until the evening without taking a chance. Todays It isn't possible for the child to do that because of the traffic. But it isn't all worse than in the past because, for example, the child that want to play football could find some fields that we didn't have.
    Bye, Marco from Italy.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ooops - there is a mistake in my homework:

    I wrote: We were used to jump from this trees into the water again and again.

    my correction: We used to jump from the trees into the water again and again.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hello Cathy and the rest of the group: Well, I used to do most of the things I´m doing actually. I used to go swimming, to read a lot, to play the piano, to go to the cinema and at present I still have the same habits and hobbies although I´m an elderly woman. But now I use to post in a blog (or something like that). I enjoy all the activities I´ve mentioned. Thanks and my regards for all of you. Beatriz.

  • Comment number 10.

    When I was young, I used to go everywhere with my sisters, we get along with each other very well, and we used to keen on doing roll plays at home, my house was not that big, but we used ours imagination that set up a lot of scenes, I remember once we made a bouncy slide by stacking up all mattress and blankets. It was really great fun together. and I always thought I will be an actress when I grow up. Of course, end up I didn't make my dream come true.

  • Comment number 11.

    Dear Katherine,

    Really nice homework to do!!
    It is very good for practicing for the FCE im planing doing in June.
    I'am a student from the Netherlands and I have had only 3 years English, so it is quite a big job for me.
    Do you have some hints for me?
    I don't know really what is was used to do in my childhood!
    I know I always was playing at street with all the boys and girls from our street. It were a lot. In our street where only 20 houses and I had 70 persons to play with. We always played togehter aged from 4-16!! Really fun.


  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Catherine,

    I hope you've been doing great. Thanks very much for your explanations about 'would' and ' used to' . In fact, I didn't know the difference quite well. I only knew how to use ' used to' , but when it comes to the usage of 'would' in a sentence of talking about in the past, it's been always a different story. I have to say that it's a tricky one, isn't it?

    Some time back in 2009, I was reading an interview in Focus of Africa magazine about the head of BBC Somali Service, and he we was used ' would ' a lot in his interview for talking about something in the past, and surprisingly, I thought there were some grammatical mistakes in that interview. So, learning a foreign language is really fun, guys!

    When I was at primary school, I used to like swimming very much. I would play football with my friends every afternoon right after coming back from school. You know how active I was when I was small. But now, I am quite inactive person.

    My Dad used to be a school teacher. so, he used to help me with my homework. He used to encourage me to do well at school. And, every time I had passed an exam, I would ask him to buy me new clothes and so on.

    Have a nice day,


  • Comment number 13.

    Abdisamad you are absolutely right about the fun of learning foreign language, you know when i spend 8 hours each day practising english ,strange feelings firing in my heart . i wish everybody here feel it .

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi friends

    I am new here. Its great to meet you people.

    Finally I have got a place where I should be.Or where I wanted to be.
    Its really helping me to keep enjoying.


  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Dina
    you are very welcome , keep in touch and i promise you will be satisfy and happy of your english improvement .

  • Comment number 16.

    Hello Everyone,
    When I was a little girl I used to play out with all my friends.
    On my sixth birthday my parents gave me a bike. It was my pride and joy.
    Every morning, as soon as I had finished breakfast, I would wheel my bike out of the garden shed and pedal off to find my friends. There were hardly any cars on the roads in those days, so it was quite safe. We used to spend all day racing up and down the street.
    But not on Sundays. We would have to stay indooors and keep quiet.
    Happy days !

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi again,

    Gosh! I made a bit of a mistake in my comment. I really meant the head of the BBC Somali Service used ' would' a lot in his interview. Hope I am forgiven, Catherine!

    Thanks very much indeed,


  • Comment number 18.

    hi catherine,
    when I remember my chilhood. Ifeel confusing... I feel sad and in the sametime I would to live it again. I used to be a shy kid, I haven't any mates until the age of nine and I used to reading and prefereing it than playing with others and I keep it up .I wish going back to the past to recorrect it. I think i waste my childhood. I don't know how I cnanged to so openning talktive person by the time .now I have alot of mates but realy I miss my childhood.

    thats my first homework. I hope I did a sterling job:)

  • Comment number 19.

    hi catherine,
    when I remember my chilhood. Ifeel confusing... I feel sad and in the sametime I (would ) to live it again( is it right to use would here or wish would be better). I used to be a shy kid, I haven't any mates until the age of nine and I used to reading and prefereing it than playing with others .I wish going back to the past to recorrect it. I think i waste my childhood. I don't know how I cnanged to so openning talktive person by the time. I kept reading up and I have alot of mates but realy I miss my childhood.

    thats my first homework. I hope I did a sterling

  • Comment number 20.

    hi catherine, i would like recall my past habits. i used to travel more places, these days it is not like that. i used to chat with my friends, going to their houses. But, as days passes responsibility and priority changes all are gone. Now, i am not going anywhere, not seeing any of my friends.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi friends and dear catherine !
    When I was child I used to bike a lot and some times I biked so far away from my house ! I used to play with other boys and girls in our neighborhood and even I remember once I played football with boys …. And I used to play roll play with my sister and cousin and in summer time I used to play with my cousins in my granny yard which there were tens of us and we used to had such a fun !
    It was so interesting to read all the mates childhood habits and waiting to hear about catherine childhood habits as well ;)

  • Comment number 22.

    Hello everybody,
    I grew up on a rather isolated little farm, so there were not so many friends around to play with. I used to wander around in the woods on my own a lot, sometimes humming tunes to myself which I had just made up, using whatever text came to my mind. I would do that until one day I found myself overheard by some fellow wanderer, who seemed to be quite amused. My embarrassment was such that I would wander in silence from then on.
    I used to spoil my brothers' games of football, I'm afraid, because I was the youngest, who would invariably get hurt in one way or another or simply end up crying for frustration. But I would enjoy role plays with my grandfather: I remember us sitting in the shade of the huge walnut tree - he being the teacher, and a very patient and loving teacher he was, and me scribbling my first letters and numbers on a piece of paper. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?
    I didn't use to use the computer as much as I do now. There was no internet, you see - and to be honest: We didn't even have a computer back then....
    Best wishes to all of you,
    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 23.

    Hello everybody,
    Just like every other kid I used to watch cartoons, play with sand and performed many other mischievous activities because of which I kept my mum worried all the time.
    I used to enjoy my own company and my mum supported me by buying some toys with which I alone can play. I used to damage my toys whenever I grew angry after failing to do something out of it and then would ask my mum for a different kind of toy. My mum used to train me at home itself by showing me pictures of different animals, birds, objects etc., along with their name. Very soon I became used to it and would identify any picture whenever anyone asked me to do so.
    I was admitted to a nearby kindergarten where I started my learning process. The experience was rather irritating in the beginning days but as time passed by I became adjusted to it and kept on with my studies.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi dear Elisabeth 1 great to know about your childhood ! and by the way do you think if you had a compute in your home even it wasn't common you would enjoy your childhood as you did ? I think we were lucky to entertainment ourselves with none gadget ways .... at least I think past gerenration had a better childhood don't you think so ?
    Have a nice start of week and bye
    pary your mate ;)

  • Comment number 25.

    Pary, my dear! You are quite right - at least I wouldn't have got as much fresh air if I had had a computer at my disposal, and there's nothing quite like sitting down in a meadow, daydreaming or simply thinking things over... On the other hand, it might have been easier with a computer to stay in touch with my childhood pen pals who I used to write letters to and whose answers would forever be too few and far between to my taste...
    A nice week to you, too,
    Yours fondly,

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Catherine
    I forgot a really old fashion past habit which I used to do when I was a teenager.

    My parents gave me a stereo as present when i was 12 years old. The radio managed to play tapes too. I was so happy and I started feeling like a little DJ too. I would record all my favourite songs played by the radio stations on blank tapes.
    It's been such a long time!

    Catherine, have you ever recorded a song played by radio station on a blank tape ?

  • Comment number 27.

    Great childhood stories everyone! And great grammar too :-)) You are a very clever bunch :-)

    Here are my responses to some of your questions and comments:

    Hind - Perfect!
    Nina - Yes, I used to jump from trees when I was a child. My strongest memory is of a time when I climbed up a tree and the branch I was on snapped, and I fell quite a long way down to the ground. Luckily I wasn't hurt, but I got a bit of a shock...
    Abdallah - I didn't use to pretend I was a teacher when I was a kid. I used to pretend I was a cowboy, or a nurse :-))
    Nina & Abdisamad - Good self-correction :-)
    Sherin - You did a sterling job (butyou need to use an infinitive without 'to' after 'would')
    Marcello - Yes, when I was a teenager I used to record songs from the radio. I don't do it any more though :-)

    And here are some of my childhood memories:

    My sisters and I used to play lots of old-fashioned games: hopscotch, clapping games, 'two-baller' (bouncing and catching tennis balls off a wall), skipping, hide-and-seek and other games like that. We used to spend lots of time outside in the summer, but in winter time we would stay inside and play board games & dressing-up, 'cops and robbers'... sometimes we would paint and draw too. I used to love reading fairy tales, and my mum would to take me to the library every week to get a new book about fairies, goblins, wicked witches and handsome princes.

    My teachers used to say I had a very vivid imagination. I think they were probably right ;-))

    See you next time,

  • Comment number 28.

    Dear Catherine,
    After reading all those "used to"- and "would"-constructions, could it just be that you slipped a "to" into a sentence (the one with your mum) where there shouldn't be one? (Infinitive without "to" after "would")
    And now I'll have to look up what hopscotch is - I have a faint idea, but I am not sure...
    Bye for now,
    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 29.

    Eeek! You are absolutely right, Elisabeth - I wrote '...my mum would to take me to the library every week...' I should have written '... my mum would take me to the library every week...'

    Well spotted! Let us know when you have found the meaning of 'hopscotch' ;-)

  • Comment number 30.

    I have!! It's what we call "Tempelhüpfen" (hopping the temples) or "Himmel und Hölle" (heaven and hell) in Austria. I remember showing my daughters how to play that - and that reminds me of another game we used to play:

    It was of the skipping sort too, and it took three children and a long endless rubber band which would be run around two children's ankles - the two standing at such a distance that the elastic band would be kept at the right tension - while the third child had to perform certain jumping patterns forwards and backwards and sideways over the elastic. As the game progressed, the elastic would be placed higher up; around the children's calves, knees and, well, however high the player in the middle would be able to jump. Whenever the latter made a mistake, it would be the next player's turn.

    Gosh, it's hard to describe children's games! I hope you got the gist...
    Elisabeth (Austria)

  • Comment number 31.

    I am new to this.I wanna improve my english.please help me out.tell me what to do for the same

  • Comment number 32.

    Elisabeth, you did a great job of describing those games! My sisters and I used to play that game with the elastic - we called it 'French skipping' or 'French skippies'. We used to spend our pocket money on bags of elastic bands and tie them all together to make a long elastic band in order to play the game.

    Another game we used to play was called 'Sardines'. It was like hide-and-seek, except when you found the person who was hiding, you had to join them in their hiding place. So if there were 10 kids playing the game, by the end of it there would be 9 kids all squashed into one hiding place - like sardines in a can. The last person to find the hiding place would be the 'loser' and the game would start again...

    Did anyone else use to play this game>

  • Comment number 33.

    hello,catherine.You i really request you to help me.I wanna polish my english..

  • Comment number 34.

    hallo everybody how are you
    I am ibrahim jumaa from syria
    I would like to learn English
    This is the first post in the site
    Greetings to you and Miss Catherine ^_^

  • Comment number 35.

    It may be too late, but I enjoy this topic!
    I am not very old, I am only 20 however games I used to play make me feel as I am a very old persone :)

    As I have a twin sister, it was easy to play! I remember I used to play outside building tree houses everywhere ! My mother used to say that she did not have two girls but two boys :)
    We used to imagine amazing stories. For example, she was an astronaut and I was a Martian :)

    I used to play like a lot of girls I think with my skypping rope! The winner was the one to have most jumped :)

  • Comment number 36.

    Hi Catherine,
    I think it is too late to reply your Blog.
    But i am really inerest on this topic. There are lots of memorious when i was chind.
    I would like to share some of my memory. i used to play with my younger brother when we were a kid. We used to go bicycling together. Also we used to swim together. Although i am feeling happy with my younger brother. But there are also some bad memory when i was a child. I remember that my primary classmates used to bully me. I am always sad on that moment !!!! But time is pass quickly. I think my classmates would forget these things already !!! and i hope my life in the future would be GOOD.


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