would spend/spent


Senior Member
I'm a little confused with the use of "would".
I found in a multiple-choice exercise the following sentence:
"When he was younger, he_____________a lot of time travelling."
The correct choice was "spent" which I clearly understand.
One of the choices was also "would spend" and my question is why we can't use it since I've learned that "would" is used for past habits like "used to" and past simple and in this example we're talking about a past habit.I also know that the only case we can't use "would" is with past states but here we have a non-stative verb ("spend").

Thank you.
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes, I don't see anything wrong with using "would spend" (with the meaning of "used to spend") in that sentence. In the absence of any additional context the inference to me is that the travelling was an activity which took place on a number of occasions spread out over a period of time - i.e habitual.


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I suppose the objection is that the notion of spending a lot of time travelling already contains the notion of a habit. 'Spend' is used metaphorically, and 'spend time' can be considered stative (eg​ 'He spent time in jail'). We are not talking about single episodes that are repeated (eg 'he would travel to see his girlfriend every weekend').

    Having said that, I think saying 'would spend time travelling' does not stick out for me.


    Senior Member
    I can't see anything wrong either.But the teacher's book indicated "spent" as the correct answer.
    "Do you know anything about our new boss?'
    "When he was younger, he_________________ a lot of travelling."
    The choices were:a)spent
    b)will have spent
    c)was spending
    d)would spend


    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I think this is one of those questions which requires you to pick the one answer which sounds best: none of the options with the exception of (b) which has a mismatch of tenses between the future perfect "will have spent" and "When he was younger" is obviously wrong. I think (c) sounds a bit odd and might fit better if it said "While he was younger..." and (d) for me would perhaps work better as "used to spend".

    Which just leaves (a) as the correct answer.
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