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I would eat well when I was a child.

I used to eat well when I was a child.

Is there any difference in the meaning between these two sentences.

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    Your first sentence is not natural, if at all correct. – Man_From_India Feb 3 '17 at 16:53
  • Agreeing with Man_From_India and Travis, your first sentence doesn't make sense. Would expresses the conditional mood, it indicates the consequence of an imagined event or situation. If you saw a child eating a cake, you could say "He has no idea how bad that is for him. If I were a child, I would eat better food." But your example sentence has no conditional statement. In addition, your use of "well" is confusing, because I don't know if you mean eat healthy food, or eat a lot of food. – KumaAra Sep 26 '17 at 5:21
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I would eat well when I was a child.

I used to eat well when I was a child.

Both sentences are correct and have the same meaning.

"Would" is used as part of conditional constructions - but not solely there. Its other uses include:

  • The future in the past. So if someone said, "I will be there", then in reported speech this becomes: She said that she would be there.
  • A tentative expression of belief (I would think so).
  • An expression of desire. This usage is somewhat archaic but still sometimes heard in the phrase "would that it were", e.g. "I would that it were so" = "I wish that it were so".
  • Descriptions of habitual past actions.
  • Descriptions of habitual non-past actions.

On the last point, Thomson and Martinet's A Practical English Grammar (Oxford University Press, 1986) gives this example:

Bill objects (or objected).

He would! or He would object! (= He always objects.)

In this idiom, the word "would" is stressed.

Thomson and Martinet say that, whereas "will" is only rarely used to express habitual action (An Englishman will usually show you the way in the street), "would" has a wide application to past habitual actions and is generally equivalent to "used to". On the distinction between "would" and "used to", they contend that when "used to" is used to describe a "discontinued habit" (as in "he used to drink beer, but now he drinks wine"), "would" cannot replace "used to".

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The only difference, according to me, is that the second sentence means that you don't eat well in the present time, while the first one says no such thing.

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The first one sounds unnatural to me, something like "If I was a child, I would be eating well", while the second conveys the message "I ate well when I was a child, but I don't anymore" This is because used to refers to something that happened before, but currently doesn't.

Personally, I would say:

I ate well when I was a child

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