Used to + Vinfinite vs. would + Vinfinite

A case of constructional synonymy?


  • Sophia Aakjær Juul University of Copenhagen


Construction Grammar, Habitual Past Markers, Corpus Linguistics, Distinctive Collexeme Analysis, Association Pattern Analysis, Situation Types


This present paper seeks to critically assess the common claim that habitual used to and habitual would are interchangeable, which suggests that the two markers hold the same status. The paper examines the internal factors said to constrain the use of the two markers to add to the empirical evidence obtained so far. Theoretically informed by usage-based construction grammar, the paper proposes two habitual past constructions, used to + VINFINITIVE and would + VINFINITIVE, respectively. On the basis of a corpus sample from the 2017 section of Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davies, 2016), a distinctive-collexeme analysis confirms that the two constructions display different construction-verb interaction while a semantic analysis of situation types further suggests semantic restrictions on verb interaction, and an association pattern analysis of the contextual surroundings of the two constructions further reveals that the presence of a temporal marker in the contextual surroundings seems imperative for would + VINFINITIVE to act as a marker of habitual past. Based on the findings, the claim that used to + VINFINITIVE and would + VINFINITIVE is to be used interchangeably is refuted.

Author Biography

Sophia Aakjær Juul, University of Copenhagen

Sophia Aakjær Juul, Master student of English (open profile) at the University of Copenhagen.

Research interests: Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Neurolinguistics and Internet Linguistics.



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How to Cite

Juul, S. A. (2020). Used to + Vinfinite vs. would + Vinfinite: A case of constructional synonymy?. Journal of Language Works - Sprogvidenskabeligt Studentertidsskrift, 5(1), 21–37. Retrieved from