Is it correct to say: "Franklin used to wake up early to read and write"?

Franklin is dead and I'm talking about his daily habits. So, what tense should I use?

  • 6
    That sentence is fine. Aug 31, 2016 at 9:27
  • 6
    It depends on whether the historical narrator places himself in the time of the subject he's writing about or in present time of his own writing.
    – deadrat
    Aug 31, 2016 at 9:27

1 Answer 1


What you have written is perfectly correct.

But to summarise, the tense used for describing the life of a deceased will depend on whether you are recording a specific event, something that took place over time, or something habitual.

Lets say I was writing a biography of the English footballer - Stanley Matthews. I might say the following.

Specific event in the simple past:

In 1953 Stanley Matthews was the hero of the Cup Final in which Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3.

Something that relates to a period of time - the imperfect:

Between 1932 and 1947 Matthews was playing regularly for Stoke City

For habitual matters - the modal would, or used to:

When he was a boy Matthews would/used to practise dribbling with a tennis ball, around obstacles in the back garden of his home.

  • Not disagreeing, but ´Between 1932 and 1947, Matthews played regularly for Stoke City.´ is also correct.
    – The Nate
    Aug 31, 2016 at 11:23
  • @TheNate Ok. Good point. So how about: By 1936 he was playing regularly for Stoke. If you agree, I will edit my answer, and also make the point that nothing changes when a person dies - as seemed to be implied in the question. It would make no difference were the person still alive, as to which past verb-form to use.
    – WS2
    Aug 31, 2016 at 13:03
  • Thomas Jefferson has visited Paris. Aug 31, 2016 at 14:56

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