Hitler himself related to me in 1930 – when we were speaking about his family relationships (in connection with a blackmail threat), ‘Even as a 10 or 12-year-old kid I always had to go late at night to this stinking, smoky dive. Without being spared any of the details, I would have to go to the table and shake him as he looked with a blank stare.

Source: Martyn Housden: Hitler: A Study of a Revolutionary?, p. 169.

I assume that using would ("I would have to go") indicates the past tense. Can I replace "I would have to go" with "had to go" without a change of the meaning in the sentence? Is the reason for this usage clearly stylistic: the author does not want to be repetitive.

1 Answer 1


Would is used here to express repeated or habitual action in the past:

When I was a kid we would go to the drive-in during the summer.
Whenever we went to Nashville my father would visit his former professor, Donald Davidson.

In effect, would plays the same semantic role as always in the previous sentence.

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