Used to vs. past simple

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Bob8964

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello, here are two examples with "used to" from a grammar book:

1. Did you use to go out with your sister?

2. Did you use to help with farm work When you lived there?


For the examples above, I wonder how I should rewrite them if I want to replace "used to" with the past simple.

Thank you in advance!
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In both sentences you can just omit 'use to', and just say 'Did you . . . '.

    The first sentence sounds odd, though. To 'go out' with someone, in BE at least, is to have an emotional/intimate relationship with them. Like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, or, of course, two people of the same sex. You don't 'go out' with your sister. :eek:
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    1. Did you use to go out with your sister?
    Are you quite sure this is what it said?

    "Used to" is used for habitual, repeated or continuous actions over a period of time in the past. This is difficult to express without "used to", but you can create a grammatically correct past tense sentence by simply removing "use to"/"used to", and if necessary changing the verb to agree with the subject (which is not needed in your examples).
     

    Bob8964

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Are you quite sure this is what it said?

    "Used to" is used for habitual, repeated or continuous actions over a period of time in the past. This is difficult to express without "used to", but you can create a grammatically correct past tense sentence by simply removing "use to"/"used to", and if necessary changing the verb to agree with thwe subject (which is not needed in your examples).
    Sorry, it should be "Did you use to go out with my sister?"
    Do you mean that simply using the past simple can't convey the nuance emphasized by "used to"?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Sorry, it should be "Did you use to go out with my sister?"
    Do you mean that simply using the past simple can't convey the nuance emphasized by "used to"?
    Of course. We don't add "used to" for no reason.

    Depending on the context, "used to" might make very little difference, but "Did you go out with my sister?" could refer to a single date, rather that their going out together over a period of time, and "Did you help with farm work when you lived there?" might refer to once or twice rather than regularly or habitually.

    You can regain that with adverbs, etc. "Did you {last summer} frequently go out with my sister?"
    Do you use "go out with" to refer to individual dates? In BrE, it might be used for one date, or possibly two or three, but beyond that it is used as a state. John may have gone out with Mary for six months, but we would not say that John went out with Mary 37 times.
     
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