Nick
It was/it used to be What's the difference between It was/it used to be
Nov 13, 2017 9:07 PM
Answers · 5
Well, they are different. "Used to be" is a workaround for the fact that the past tense in English is imprecise, lacking the imperfect past tense. Let's look at an example. "The pasture was green." This sentence can have 2 different meanings about the past. 1) as simple past tense, the pasture was green, let's say, a decade ago, but that's all I know. I don't know anything about what happened afterwards. 2) It could also mean that it was green, and continued to be green in the past as I came and went over the years. Or even, it used to be green, but it changed to purple about 5 years ago. In English, there is no specific tense to express this, called the imperfect past tense. One way to solve this is to employ "used to", but this does not work in all cases. Here's an example where it doesn't. "It was raining all night, when Don Quixote arrived on his horse". Here, the action is continuing in the past. However, it would mean something different from, "It used to rain all night, when Don Quixote arrived on his horse", possibly implying that Don Quixote ended the pattern of all night rains.
November 13, 2017
'It used to be' has more of a continuous idea. It expresses a longer-term state in the past. 'It was' doesn't give that longer-time aspect, so can be used for short-term states. "It used to be painted blue" - It was blue for a long time. "It was here yesterday" - At some stage yesterday, it was here. We can assume it isn't any more. You can of course use 'It was' for longer-term states, but you are not giving that extra information about the time-frame.
November 13, 2017
"It used to be a hardware store, but now it's a McDonalds fast food outlet." It WAS a hardware store, but it ISN'T ANYMORE. (It used to be). "I remember when my dad first took me to see my aunt in Skegness. It was a really sunny day, and we went for a walk along the beach." In this second sentence I am talking about a specific point in time (once), and "used to be" wouldn't be apt in this phrase. See below: "I remember when my dad first took me to see my aunt in Skegness. It used to be a really sunny day, and we went for a walk along the beach."
November 14, 2017
"It was", this is just the pronoun with the verb in past form, whereas "it was used to be" means the fact that the person has a past habit that is not current anymore. "it used to + verb" is a typical phrase of english grammar inducing things that were done before.
November 13, 2017
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Nick
Language Skills
English, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian
Learning Language
English, Italian