Parte de la cúpula de la Ermita de la Sang, Sagunto


 

 

 

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Grammar notes: habits

 

Present simple

To talk about habits, the present simple is generally used with an adverb of frequency (always, never, sometimes, usually...) which normally comes before the main verb but after the verb 'to be'. For example:

He always goes to work by bus.
She is usually late.
I never go to clubs. I don't like them.

 

Present continuous

The present continuous is used with the adverb 'always' to describe actions that are repeated and repeated. Grammar books sometimes say it refers only to irritating habits, but this isn't true. For example:

She's always cleaning the house, even when it's not necessary.
I'm not surprised he hasn't got any money. He's always buying people presents.
They're always trying to cadge cigarettes off people.
He must be a happy person. He's always smiling.

Will

Will does not refer to the future here, but is used to talk about predictable or characteristic behaviour, in other words what you expect people to do.

It's generally used as 'll, because when you use the whole word it means you find it irritating. For example:

He won't usually speak to us at breakfast time but he'll come to the pub with us in the evenings.
When he comes in from work he'll just sit in front of the telly.
He will put his cigarettes out on his plate. I wish he wouldn't.

Past simple

The past simple can be used to talk about habits as long as you make the context clear or use adverbs referring to time. For example:

When I went to school I had to wear uniform.
Every morning I worked for a few hours and then had lunch.
I never got up before twelve when I was unemployed.

Past continuous

This can be used in the same way as the present continuous, but to refer to the past:

She was always cleaning the house, even when it wasn't necessary.
I'm not surprised he didn't have any money. He was always buying people presents.
They were always trying to cadge cigarettes off people.
He must have been a happy person. He was always smiling.

Used to

Structure: used to do something/didn't use to do something

This form is used to describe actions and states which are no longer true, in other words they are true for the past but not for the present. For example:

We used to go to the Lake District every year for our holidays.
When I was living abroad I used to swim every day before breakfast.
My family used to be rich.
We used to have lots of servants.

There is no present form of 'used to'. You have to use 'usually' and the present simple. It isn't exactly the same as the Spanish verb soler, although it's similar in the past.

Would

Would is used in the same way as 'used to', and is the past equivalent of 'will' for present habits. It is NOT used to describe states. For example:

We would go to the Lake District every year for our holidays.
When I was living abroad I would swim every day before breakfast.
My family would be rich.
We would have lots of servants.

Links to exercises and pdf files

Multiple choice exercise - online
Multiple choice exercise - pdf file for download or printing
Grammar notes from this page - pdf file for download or printing

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