Additional Structures

There is some discussion among the experts as to how many tenses there actually are in English. Is it 12 or should we treat structures that are used for the same purpose as tenses? Regardless of classification, the structures discussed below are very important to the English language and are always introduced to students with the same emphasis as tenses. There are 3 structures we would like to discuss here: GOING TO DO STH (STH = something), USED TO DO STH, WOULD DO STH

Going To Do STH

Structure

Positive Sentences

BE + GOING TO + INFINITIVE

I

am

going to

wash my hair tonight.

You

were

going to

call him on Tuesday.

He

was

going to

study tonight.

She

is

going to

see her doctor in 2 days’ time.

It

is

going to

fall down.

We

are

going to

meet them later.

You

are

going to

go to America next week.

They

were

going to

visit Japan next year.

As you can see, the structure is only correct when we use the verb BE with the unchangeable GOING TO followed by infinitive of the verb. We can use this structure in many tenses, hence the examples above are in present and past tense (not normally used with future tenses). What is important is to make sure the verb BE is in the right form, present or past. It is only the verb BE that will change depending on the person and tense. The structure GOING TO DO will always look the same.

Questions

INVERSION

Am

I

going to

wash my hair tonight?

Were

you

going to

call him on Tuesday?

Was

he

going to

study tonight?

Is

she

going to

see her doctor in 2 days’ time?

Is

it

going to

fall down?

Are

we

going to

meet them later?

Are

you

going to

go to America next week?

Were

they

going to

visit Japan next year?

The most important part of this structure is the verb BE. Hence, we form questions by means of inversion, that is by reversing the word order. In this case the word BE swaps places with the pronoun = > I am/was … becomes Am/Was I …? The rest of the structure (going to do) remains the same.

Negatives

BE + NOT

I

am

not

going to

wash my hair tonight.

You

were

not

going to

call him on Tuesday.

He

was

not

going to

study tonight.

She

is

not

going to

see her doctor in 2 days’ time.

It

is

not

going to

fall down.

We

are

not

going to

meet them later.

You

were

not

going to

go to America next week.

They

are

not 

going to

visit Japan next year.

We form negatives by adding NOT to the verb BE. The rest of the structure (going to do) remains the same.

Usage

We use the structure GOING TO DO STH when talking about:

  1. actions planned for the future, when the decision was made before the moment of speaking

eg I’m going to visit my cousin in Canada next summer.

She was going to buy a ticket but he told her she couldn’t have a day off.

  1. predictions about something happening in the future which are based on solid evidence

eg: I think it’s going to rain soon. (we can see the dark clouds etc.)

She is going to have a baby. (we can see the belly etc.)

Used To Do STH

Structure

Positive Sentences

USED TO + INFINITIVE

I

used to

stay up late when I was 18.

You

used to

tell me you loved me once a day at the beginning of our relationship.

He

used to

drive his sister mad when they lived together.

She

used to

be very naughty when she was a teenager.

It

used to

stand in the living room.

We

used to

be best friends a few years ago.

You

used to

pick me up on your way to school when we studied together.

They

used to

go to work by train.

As you can see, the structure is very simple – the same for all the pronouns (I, you, he…). All you need to remember is that after USED TO we use the infinitive of a verb.

Questions

DID + USE TO + INFINITIVE

Did

I

use to

stay up late when I was 18?

Did

you

use to

tell me you loved me once a day at the beginning of our relationship?

Did

he

use to

drive his sister mad when they lived together?

Did

she

use to

be very naughty when she was a teenager?

Did

it

use to

stand in the living room?

Did

we

use to

be best friends a few years ago?

Did

you

use to

pick me up on your way to school when we studied together?

Did

they

use to

go to work by train?

It is important that your students understand that the structure ‘used to’ is nothing different to the verb ‘use’ with the -ed ending typical for Past Simple. As such, we create questions (and negations) the same way as in Past Simple – by means of DID plus infinitive form of a verb → here USE to (instead of USED to). The rest of the structure remains the same.

Negatives

DID + NOT + USE TO + INFINITIVE

I

didn’t use to

stay up late when I was 18.

You

didn’t use to

tell me you loved me once a day at the beginning of our relationship.

He

didn’t use to

drive his sister mad when they lived together.

She

didn’t use to

be very naughty when she was a teenager.

It

didn’t use to

stand in the living room.

We

didn’t use to

be best friends a few years ago.

You

didn’t use to

pick me up on your way to school when we studied together.

They

didn’t use to

go to work by train.

Again, following Past Simple tense rules, we form negatives by adding NOT to the verb DID, that is by means of DID NOT = DIDN’T. Remember that the ending -ed disappears from ‘used to’ leaving the phrase ‘use to’. The rest of the structure remains the same.

Usage

We use the structure USED TO DO STH when talking about:

  1.   actions and states that were typical and happened regularly in the past but are not       happening any more (old habits etc.)

eg: I used to like him. (I don’t any more)

I used to smoke. (I don’t any more)

Would Do STH

This structure has the same meaning as the structure USED TO. That’s why they are always introduced to students together. However, there is a difference in the amount of contexts they can appear in. The structure ‘would do sth’ is much more limited:

  1. it is used to talk only about actions (ie activities) that were typical and happened regularly in the past but are not happening any more. We cannot express states from the past by means of ‘would’, eg:

I would swim a lot when I was young. = I used to swim a lot when I was young.

BUT

I used to love him a lot. (we can’t say that sentence with ‘would’)

I used to be a real trouble maker. (we can’t say that sentence with ‘would’)

  1. if we want to use ‘would’ instead of ‘used to’, we can only do that in positive sentences. When we want to ask questions or negate something from the past we can only use ‘used to’. ‘Would’ in questions and negatives has a completely different meaning reserved for other parts of grammar.

As you can see, the structure ‘would’ is reserved only for positive sentences and only for those expressing the real actions. Just to make sure the structure is clear, let’s have a quick look at it:

Structure

Positive Sentences

WOULD + INFINITIVE

I

would

play a lot of tennis when I was 18.

You

would

tell me you loved me once a day at the beginning of our relationship.

She

would

take my clothes all the time when she was a teenager.

He

would

drive his sister mad when they lived together.

It

would

stand in the living room.

We

would

act as best friends few years ago.

You

would

pick me up on your way to school when we studied together.

They

would

go to work by train.