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I'm writing a text and have a question. When we write about some things that existed in the past, but not now, can we use just past simple for a simple intersection? Or must we use the construction "used to"?

Some years ago we had special days, when our relatives had come to us and we played different games.
Or
Some years ago we had special days, when our relatives had come to us and we used to play different games.

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  • Idiomatically it's almost always Simple Past ...when our relatives came to [visit] us... Note that either, both, or neither of those past tense verb elements could be rephrased to used to come / used to play - all that does is emphasise the fact that that such things happened habitually, often, but the exact context here is obviously "habitual", so it doesn't really make any difference at all. Oct 2, 2021 at 14:40
  • ...also note that "different" usually requires some reasonably clear referent to something other than the current noun phrase (something that's different to the primary NP). If you simply want to indicate that the contextually-relevant games were "different to each other" that's better conveyed by ...we played a variety of / various games. Oct 2, 2021 at 14:46

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To write about the past, use the past tense.

... we played different games.

There is a specific time given in the sentence, it is "when our relatives came to use" (you should use simple past for this time clause, not past perfect)

You use "used to" for general habits or things that occurred often in the past, not at specific times:

Some years ago we used to have special days when our relatives visited us and we played various games.

I've changed some of the words to more appropriate ones

It is also possible to rearrange this:

We used to play various games when our relatives visited us on special days.

Or split into two sentences

Some years ago we had special days when our relatives visited us. We used to play various games on those days.

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  • Typo: came to us not "came to use"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 2, 2021 at 11:36

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