Expressing Habits and Repeated Actions (past)

It can be difficult to find good resources covering the concept of used to and would to express habits and repeated actions in the past. We have released a two part lesson plan series designed for you to teach your ESL students the distinction and correct uses of used to and would to express past habits and repeated actions.

You can find our two lesson plans filed in our Teacher tab under our Verbs-Simple category. They can currently be accessed by signing up for our private beta on our Home Page.
We consider expressing habits and repeated actions in the past an intermediate to advanced ESL concept because it requires comfort with several different tenses and forms. Students should be very comfortable with the form and use of the present simple, past simple, present continuous and past continuous before embarking on these lessons. Here is an overview of what you can expect from our two lesson plans examining habits and repeated actions in the past:
Repeated Actions in the Past -1
In our first lesson plan we cover the following:

  • We recap the present simple for repeated actions and habits that continue (e.g. I drink coffee) and for states (e.g. London is the capital of England)
  • We recap the use of the present and past continuous for actions occurring now and actions in the past (e.g. I was drinking coffee)
  • We introduce used to + present simple for habits and repeated actions in the past that do not occur now (e.g. I used to drink coffee)
  • We provide a review of determining whether a verb is an action verb vs. a state verb
  • We introduce used to to express things that were true in the past but are no longer true (e.g. Rio used to be the capital of Brazil)
  • We finalize the lesson with the construction of used to in the negative and question form

habits-and-repeated-actions habits-and-repeated-actions habits-and-repeated-actions habits-and-repeated-actions
Repeated Actions in the Past -2
In our second lesson we provide coverage of the following:

  • Used to for negative questions when we want to show surprise or when we expect the answer to be yes (e.g. Didn’t you use to work here?)
  • We contrast the use of used to vs. the past continuous (continuous forms are generally not used for states)
  • We introduce the use of would for repeated actions in the past (e.g. I would go skiing every weekend) but not for states and habits
  • We provide significant practice between the use of used to and would

habits and repeated actions

Let us know if you’ve had success using our habits and repeated actions focused lesson plans! Feedback from teachers is always welcome!

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