In my mother tongue, Japanese, we very often use past continuous to describe our past habits. But how about in English?

ex. 1... To say that you were an early bird when you were in high school, which sounds better?

1-A) "I woke up at five when I was in high school."

1-B) "I was waking up at five when I was in high school."

1-B is perfectly normal in my mother tongue, but how about in English? If neither of them conveys the right intention, how should I say it?

ex. 2... How about this one? To say that you were a student of the UCLA ten years ago, which sounds better?

2-A) "I attended the UCLA ten years ago."

2-B) "I was attending the UCLA ten years ago."

2-B sounds perfectly normal in Japanese. If they are both incorrect, please tell me how I can correct the sentence.

Thank you in advance.

  • 1-A is okay, but "When I was in high school, I woke up at five." feels more natural to me. Nov 22, 2022 at 22:51
  • Note that in English you say "UCLA" not "the UCLA". Although there may be a few exceptions this is certainly the general rule for universities and colleges: "I studied at MIT", "I graduated from USC". But "the" is used with things like government departments and government offices such as "the DMV" or "the DoD", as well as university departments such as "the USC School of Architecture".
    – Stuart F
    Jul 27, 2023 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


The usual way to describe past habits is the "used to" construction:

I used to wake up at five when I was in high school.

The simple past is a possible alternative, but not as natural as the "used to" construction. The past continuous would not normally be used for this purpose.

for 2, The simple past would be a correct way to describe this past event - not habit. Or you could use "used to"

you could use the past continuous only in situations like

While I was attending UCLA, I met my wife.

An alternative and rather formal construction is to use "would":

I would wake up at five every day while I was at high school.

But "would" is also used for conditional and future-in-the-past, so this can create ambiguities.

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