Oct 11, 2008

Speed Racer: Would x Used to

It is often difficult for students to realize when to use "used to" or "would" in order to express past habits. This segment and activity will give students an opportunity to use this target grammar point in a contextualized manner.

Before watching the segment:
Play some relaxing music, dim all the lights, create a cozy atmosphere, and ask your students to take a fantasy trip into the past. Tell them to think about their childhood (or adolescence). Ask them to close their eyes and address them the following questions. Don't let them answer the questions now; all they have to do is travel in time.

What are your best childhood (teenage) memories?

What did your school look like?

What kind of student did you use to be?
Who used to be your best friend?

Where did you use to go on weekends?

What sports did you use to practice?

What were your favorite games?

What did you dislike about that period of your life?

Now divide the class into pairs, give each pair a copy of the questions you have just read, and let them share their ideas with their partners.

Now watch the video segment and fill in the blanks of the following sentences with "used to + verb" or "would + verb". If both are possible, use "would (not)". Pay attention whether you will write affirmative or negative statements, based on the information presented in the segment.
1) Speed ___________ (be) a restless child.

2) He _____________ (be) easily distracted during the classes.

3) He ____________ (concentrate) during the classes.

4) He _____________ (enjoy) being in the classroom.

5) He _____________ (count) the seconds for the break time.

6) He ____________ (think) about automobile racing all the time.

7) He _____________ (draw) racing cars.

8) His mother __________ (be) called by the school's director to talk about Speed's performance in class.

9) His mother ___________ (agree) with the director.

10) He _____________ (pretend) he was driving a car.

11) He _______________ (be) the first student to leave the classroom when the bell rang.

12) He __________ (leave) the school with his father.

13) His brother _______________ (coach) him how to drive a racing car.

14) He ____________ (drive) racing cars by himself when he was a kid.

Answer Key:

1. used to
2. used to
3. wouldn't
4. used to
5. would
6. used to
7. would
8. used to
9. wouldn't
10. would
11. used to
12. would
13. would
14. would


Used to: Before both stative and action verbs
Would: Before action verbs
Exception: There + to be: Only would

How to prepare your own grammar activity:

- Select a scene in which childhood memories are evident.

- Prepare a few questions for students to remember their childhood's special moments.

- Students share their ideas with a partner.

- Prepare an exercise sheet with the activities presented in the segment.

- Write sentences with both action and stative verbs so that students can select "used" to or "would " to complete the blanks.

- Some of the sentences must be true, others false; this way you will work with listening comprehension too.

- Have students to the exercise.




Daniel said...


I would like to report the following mistake on your worksheet:


Used to: Before stative verbs
Would: Before both stative and action verbs
Exception: There + to be: Only would.

Actually, we use 'used to' before both stative and dynamic verbs. 'Would' is used before dynamic verbs only.

Example: When I was a kid I used to have a pet named Thor. NOT When I was a kid I would have a pet named Thor. (have = stative verb).

Or even: When I was younger, I used to be a great swimmer. NOT When I was a kid, I would be a swimmer. (be = stative verb).

Hence, we could say: "I used to go to my grandmother's house when I was on vacation." AND "I would go to my grandmother's house when I was on vacation." (Since go = dynamic verb).

Hope it helps!


Claudio Azevedo said...

Thanks, Daniel. It was a typing mistake. As you could notice, the answer key is right, so it had followed the rules you provided here. Thanks for the feedback. Otherwise, I would not have spotted it. See you.

Patricia said...

Hi, My name is Patricia. I've been an EFL teacher in Goiânia for 23 years now. I also see films preparing lessons. Like you I've also presented some of my activities in Braz-tesol regional seminar in BSB years ago. If you allow me, here is a tip on a snipet to focus on the use of WOULD for past habits / changes. Have you ever seen the film "Stranger than fiction"? The first ten minutes or so has Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) narrating how the life of a man named Harrold Crick (Will Ferrell) used to be and what he would do every day until his watch stopped one Wednesday.
Check out he the excerpt bellow:

Kay Eiffel: [narrating] This is a story about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch. (...) Every weekday, for twelve years, Harold WOULD brush each of his thirty-two teeth (....). His watch WOULD simply look on (...) wishing Harrold WOULD use a more colorful toothbrush. Every weekday, for twelve years, Harold WOULD tie his tie in a single Windsor knot (...) Harrold WOULD run (...). His watch WOULD delight in the feeling (...). Harrold WOULD complete 7,134 files (...) Harrold WOULD walk home alone (...) he WOULD eat alone. (...) Harrold WOULD go to bed alone. That was of course before Wednesday. On Wednesday his watch changed everything.

So, Claudio, how about giving it a try and adding another activity to your blog?


Claudio Azevedo said...

Hi Patricia!

What a wonderful suggestion! The scene sounds perfect for this purpose. Can you believe I have not seen Stranger than Fiction? I'm not very fond of Will Ferrell so I neglected it - unfortunate decision. I'll look for the film and check it out. Thank you so much for the tip and generosity. See you around.

Patricia said...

Well, I must confess Will Ferrel didn't appeal to me till I saw this film, by far one of my favorites nowadays for the message it puts forward: life is to be lived.

Glad you liked.


Flávia said...

Hello Cláudio, how are you doing?

Recently I've been facing some problems when I try to download your videos... I used to download them by clicking on the RealPlayer Converter tab, but everytime I try to do it, there is a message saying that is not possible to download from this website. Do you know why? It happens whenever I try to download any of your videos.. either using Mozilla or Internet Explorer. Do you know why?

Thanks in advance!

Claudio Azevedo said...

I don't know what might be happening. I just tried it with both Explorer and Mozilla and it is fine. Have you tried a different computer? Have you checked if your realplayer settings are programmed to allow downloads from internet sites?

Flávia said...

Hello Claudio,

Thanks for your feedback. I'm gonna check these options you've mentioned and after I'll let you know what was going on.

Thanks and congratulations for your wonderful job!


Flávia said...

Hi Cláudio, it's me again!

I've checked everything you've told me, but unfortunately, I didn't manage to download, even in other computers...

I imagine you always upload your videos to youtube before you post them here, right? Maybe if I could subscribe to your personal page at youtube I would be able to download them more easily. Do you think it is possible?

Thanks again,

Claudio Azevedo said...

Sorry, the videos are not uploaded to youtube first or ever. They're uploaded directly to blogger - the blog itself. I don't have a youtube account. I'm sorry, I really don't know how to help you because eveyone I know manages to download the videos.

Flávia said...

That's ok, Cláudio.
I'm either downloading the full film (through torrent) or, when the student has wi-fi available, we're watching direct from your blog.


Flávia said...

Hi Cláudio, it's me again!

I'm gonna use this activity tonight and I realized there is a small mistake here (probably it happened when you were typing). You said:

Used to: Before both stative and action verbs
Would: Before stative verbs
Exception: There + to be: Only would"

Don't we use 'would' only before action verbs? I think you have mistyped it.

Claudio Azevedo said...

Thanks for the feedback. I thought I had already corrected it.

Flávia said...

Thank YOU for sharing such nice video activities!

Hulusi T. said...

I would ask why the videos are not HD.

Claudio Azevedo said...

They are too heavy for blogspot.

Matheus Gomes said...

Hello Claudio. First of all, I'd like to say that I enjoy your blog a lot. It provides me with some valuable and useful insights when I'm preparing classes. Concerning this exercise you posted, isn't 'concentrate' a stative verb? Because in the answer key the answer you put was 'would'. Thanks in advance.

Claudio Azevedo said...

Hello Matheus
Some English verbs, which we call state, non-continuous or stative verbs, aren't used in continuous tenses (like the present continuous, or the future continuous). These verbs often describe states that last for some time. It is not the case of concentrate in this context. You have to make an effort to concentrate, it is not like the verb "like" or "remember". Some stative verbs can be dynamic as well. It depends on the context. If you think, though, the item will not help your students, edit the worksheet and delete it.