As far as I know, here's the main difference between used to and would: used to can be used with both dynamic and stative verbs, whereas would can only be used with dynamic (action) verbs. It's a sentence I saw in a textbook:

He would always know the answers.

Is it OK to use know, which is a stative verb, with would?

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    Yes, that's fine (cf. "he always knew the answers"). Incidentally, "know" does not entirely exclude the progressive, as in "He claims that fewer and fewer students are knowing how to write English when they come up to university". And the verb is "use", not "used to"; a small point but worth remembering.
    – BillJ
    Aug 27, 2016 at 15:45
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    @BillJ [devil's advocating here] It's doubtful if the verb is actually use, though. There's quite a lot of evidence that it's used. Although there's no quibble about the to not being part of the verb, of course. Aug 27, 2016 at 17:22
  • @Araucaria What evidence? I've never seen any
    – BillJ
    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:04
  • @BillJ Well, first of all consider what the verb use sounds like. I mean does it rhyme with the noun the use of or does it rhyme with the regular verb in I used the computer. If it's the second, then how come the verb in used always to ... has a /t/ and not a /d/? Secondly, look at the very large numbers of the form didn't used to available in published books and which also occur regularly in adults' writing ... Aug 28, 2016 at 11:36
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    @Araucaria I know, lol! - they are notorious aren't they. It's just that with "use" they i.e. Cambridge, MacMillan etc.all say the same thing (did you check out the Oxford, btw?). And there are other non-dictionary resources too such as the BBC Learning English link. I saw Liberman's post a while back, but passed quietly over it with the intention of asking GKP for his thoughts (I'll do that now).
    – BillJ
    Aug 28, 2016 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


You are partially correct in that stative verbs usually relate to a permanent or extended state, and you cannot use would to describe a permanent or extended state. For example, you cannot replace used to with would in these sentences:

My grandma used to live in Indonesia.
We used to live in York.

We use would about regular, habitual actions- a number of separate occasions over a period of time: that's why you can't use it for permanent of extended states.

You are also correct in saying that know can be a stative verb. If you know something, then (assuming you don't forget) it's not a temporary thing.

You can, however, use know in a non-stative way, for example if you were to say

Every time somebody asked a question, John would always know the answer.

What this means is that, on every separate occasion that a question was asked, John did, on every separate occasion, know the answer.

This link provides more background information about would and used to.


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