25/SET/2005 6:45 PM
||Used to or simple past
1) "In many cities nowadays, food shopping takes very little time. In the past, people used to go (1) (WENT) to a different shop for each item.
3) A fruit market used to sell (3) (SOLD) fruit and vegetables.
Can you tell me if in numbers 1 and 3 you could use the simple past without no difference in meaning?
‘Used to’ refers to a past habit or practice. It usually implies that the past habit or practice has changed or been discontinued. It implies things are different now. In the example you have given the author is clearly trying to make a point about the change of shopping patterns. So ‘used to’ is the ideal verb form to highlight such a dynamic. Use of the ‘simple past’ form merely describes what happened. There is no subtle implication of the shift of patterns etc. So there is a difference of meaning, no matter how slight. The use of ‘used to’ rather than the simple remote form is a calculated use of a refined tool to add a shade of meaning.
2) For example, you bought (2) (USED TO BUY) meat at a butcher´s shop and fish at a fish market.
4) For dry foods like rice or beans, you had (4) to go (USED TO GO) to groceries stores." Jack C. Richards - New Interchange- Cambridge University Press.
Again it would change the meaning in the reverse. I suppose it is important to remember that these sentences are a sequence and that the meaning is shared between them. Since ‘used to’ is employed in the first, all of the following sentences are ‘understood’ within the past habit / present practice context.
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English Made in Brazil -- English, Portuguese, & contrastive linguistics
Used to or simple past jose rocha 24/SET/2005, 8:12 PM
Used to or simple past Johannes 25/SET/2005, 7:26 AM
Used to or simple past m rob 25/SET/2005, 6:45 PM
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