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I used to live in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

I had been living in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

Is there any difference between the two?

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First sentence

I used to live in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

The expression used to describes a situation that no longer exists, or ceased to exist at some specified time. In this case, it means that the speaker moved to the US, lived there for a year, moved away from the US and then (probably straight afterwards) became a teacher.


Second sentence

I had been living in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

This sentence does not feel quite natural because both the past perfect had been and the conjunction before indicate that something occurred before something else: in addition, for a year specifies a time interval. That sounds like it ought to define quite a complex sequence of events.

It could be made more natural by eliminating one of the before-indicators, like this:

I was living in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

This sentence describes a situation where the speaker moved to the US, lived there for a year and (probably directly after that year) became a teacher.

I had been living in the US for a year when I became a teacher.

This sentence describes a situation where the speaker moved to the US, lived there for a year and directly after that year became a teacher.

Alternatively, you could eliminate the time interval specifier, like this:

I had been living in the US before I became a teacher.

This sentence describes a situation where the speaker moved to the US and stayed there for a while, but left some time before becoming a teacher.

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Yes, the two sentences mean different things. The first is hard to parse.

I used to live in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

Saying "used to [do something]" means that whatever you used to do, you don't do anymore.

  • I used to hate black-eyed peas.

Unstated, but part of the meaning, is that you like them now. So saying "I used to live in the US for a year" means that you don't live there any more, but you were there for a year. Ending the sentence with "before I became a teacher" does not fit with the rest of the flow of the sentence. My guess at the meaning would be that you are a teacher now, somewhere other than the US, but you did happen to live in the US for a year prior to being a teacher.

I had been living in the US for a year before I became a teacher.

This second sentence sounds normal to this native speaker. It means that you are a teacher now, most likely in the US, and you were in the US a year before becoming a teacher. I should rephrase that. Technically, it is not necessarily saying you are a teacher now. At a minimum you had been a teacher, and before that you had been in the US for a year.

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