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I was studying the use of "used to" and "would" when I came across this sentence, which has been nagging me:

1a Family values used to be quite different in those days.

1b Family values would be quite different in those days.

2a It used to be quite normal for cousins to marry.

2b It would be quite normal for cousins to marry.

3a Generally speaking, these marriages used to succeed as well as any others.

3b Generally speaking, these marriages would succeed as well as any others.

Which "b" sentences are grammatically wrong?

According to what the book* said, "used to" - not "would" - can only go along with the so-called past state. With that being said, I was easily able to make out that

1b is wrong, obviously (if we're not dealing with deduction here);

3b is, of course, right, for it's telling a repetition.

But, moreover, 2b is not wrong, which is kind of weird, although I do feel it right somehow. Can somebody explain this to me?

Thank you!

*Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency by Richard Side and Guy Wellman"

  • Unfortunately for your book, 1b is grammatical, but in a different sense: with epistemic would. It means something like "I conclude that" or "we know that" family values were quite different. – Colin Fine Apr 9 at 23:03
  • @ColinFine Well, I agree, and indeed it would be correct in that sense, if of course the book were also attending to it, in which case it was my fault not elaborating on the subject matter. :-) – L. S. Jeong Pótrekin Apr 11 at 14:27
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Both of these read perfectly well to me.

2b It would be quite normal for cousins to marry is describing a a future hypothetical action (the cousins get married) from a point in the past where the cousins are unmarried.

3b Generally speaking, these marriages would succeed as well as any others is describe a future possibility (successful marriage) from a point in the past when a couple is newly married; it is also in the form of typical/repetitive action in the past.

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  • So, in the end, isn’t 2b describing a state or a repetition? From what you’re saying, it seems neither, doesn’t it? – L. S. Jeong Pótrekin Jun 17 '19 at 18:01

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