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Guys used to wear hats - 'used to' for past habits
Jul 5, 2014
Used to for past habitsHi, welcome to another lesson from New English Academy. I’m your teacher, Giles Parker, and today we’re going to be focusing on used to to talk about habits and routines that are no longer true. This lesson is aimed at intermediate level learners but the language is all natural so anyone can pick up something from it. The text is called ‘Guys used to wear hats’ and this talks about – yep, you guessed it – how people used to wear hats once upon a time, but it seems this is no longer true. But first let’s talk about the grammar, used to.You know how the past tense talks about a finished or competed action that we also know when it happened, like I ate cereal for breakfast? Well, used to talks about past routines or past habits or past situations that were regular but that don’t happen anymore now. So,’ I used to wear short pants when I went to school (but I don’t anymore)’. Or ‘I used to work out every Saturday (but I don’t anymore)’. Used to shows the difference between the past and the present, saying that something was regular but it stopped. You can make this clearer by adding a negative phrase like ‘I don’t now’, or ‘I don’t anymore’. You can also use it to talk about states that are no longer true, like ‘I used to be fat but then I went on this great exercise program’.To make it is pretty simple – just add used to in front of the base form of the verb like this – ‘I used to love her’. To make the negative, just put didn’t in front of used to, like ‘I didn’t used to love her’ what does this mean? It means I do now! You can also use never instead of didn’t for the same meaning, so ‘I never used to love her’.A quick warning about spelling for negatives – the past in used to is ed, in the negative it loses the d and the past is shown in the didn’t, so negatives with didn’t lose the d. But…with never, used to keeps the d. Why is that? Because it still shows the past.To make questions just put did in front of used to, so ‘When you were a kid, did you use to play with the other kids or stay at home?’One interesting point (well, for saddoes like me, anyway) is that you can use would instead of used to for nearly exactly the same things except for one exception. So for example, you can say ‘I would wear shorts to school’. But the problem is that you can only use would when it is a regular, repetitive action, NOT a state. Huh??? What’s the difference? Well, we can say ‘I used to’ or ‘I would’ or ‘I’d wear shorts’ because it is an action. But what about a state? We can’t use would here. Try this one – ‘I used to be happy before I met you’, then change it with would. ‘I would be happy before I met you.’ Nope, it doesn’t work. So, would can be used in most places where used to can be used except for state of being. Gotta love all the little exceptions in English.OK, so to summarize, we can use used to to talk about routines and habits that are no longer true. Watch out for the spelling in the negative and the question form as it drops the d. Lastly, watch out you don’t confuse it with two verbs that sound similar but have different meanings. These are, get used to doing something, and be used to doing something.Now, on to the comprehension text. This little text talks about how in the past people had a regular habit of wearing hats but now – yep – just look around you, they don’t seem to wear hats so much. Now, why is that? Listen to the text and find out. And don’t forget to download the transcript from our website, New English Academy.com and check out the great online learning activities and games and tests.Guys used to wear hatsThere was a neat little article on NPR the other day about how, in the past, men always used to wear hats, but now they don’t. I know my grandfather had some ideas about fashion and what men should wear. For example, he thought gentlemen shouldn’t show their braces (the elastic things that hold your pants up) in public. And he especially felt that going out without a hat was like walking around in the nude. People used to think that way, once upon a time.If you look at old movies and pictures of until about 40 years ago, you can see that guys always used to wear hats. People used to have hats for different occasions, so you had a collection. For example, you used to have a going-to-church-type hat, a going-to-work-type hat, a working-in-the-garden-type hat, etc. In fact, there even used to be a TV commercial in the UK for beer where a middle-aged wife wants to know where her husband has gone so she looks at the hat rack by the front door. His fishing hat is missing so she assumes he has gone fishing. The commercial ends of course with our hero sitting in a pub, drinking his favourite beer and wearing his fishing hat!The NPR article gave various reasons for why hats used to be popular and why men no longer wear them. Obviously, they keep your head warm and dry and protect you from the sun. And that was fine when people used to spend a lot of time outdoors, either travelling to work or working outside. But nowadays people drive to work, and it is pointless and even uncomfortable to wear a hat in your car. I guess people don’t go outside as much as they used to. Also, we have good sun-glasses now to protect our eyes. Another reason why men don’t wear hats so much these days is that hair-style is more important than it used to be. Wearing a hat gives you hat-head, where your hair is all mussed up. Lastly, a hat is an extra thing to carry around, something else to worry about when we don’t need extra hassle. Often things these days are designed to be functional but pocket-sized. I haven’t seen a good-looking hat you can get in your pocket yet.The only guys I see who still regularly wear hats are blue-collar American men, with their bill-caps or baseball caps. They wear them wherever they are, outside, when they are driving, or indoors. At sports events they all stand up and remove their caps and place them over their hearts when they hear the national anthem. They each probably have just the one cap which they wear day in, day out. Perhaps like my grandfather they feel naked if they go out without their cap. I have to wonder, how will our world change? What do we take for granted now that will disappear in the future? Will our grandchildren look at movies and pictures of us now and talk about what we used to do that they don’t do anymore? What will change, do you think?