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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;

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"

  • I'd say 1b is ungrammatical, 2b is grammatical but not equivalent to 2a, and 3b is fine. I think you have to distinguish between habitual actions in the past and ongoing states - perhaps that's what you mean by saying 3b tells of a repetition, but surely this also explains 2b (compare cousins would often marry each other, which frames it ias iterative and is fine). – user96060 Jun 16 at 8:22
  • I would prefer to use would have been in all of those sentences. (And modifying the word that follows to fit, if need be.) But I would not say that any of the sentences are actually ungrammatical as they are. Even 1b isn't necessarily wrong. (It would depend on more context than just the sentence itself.) – Jason Bassford Jun 16 at 16:57
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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.

  • 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 at 18:01

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