Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Common Problems (Part 44 of 50)

Watch the use of would. The helping verb refers to usual action. Once you make it clear that you refer to something that's frequent, you don't need to use it again. Or if you've already established it as habitual, you don't need it. Simply put the rest of the material into the simple past tense.

* Josiah regularly did the butt-scoot boogie as we liked to call it. He would push himself into a sitting position. (Regularly shows it's his usual form.) Better: He pushed himself. . .

* Even the mocking bird in our neighborhood knew the sounds of our house. We would hear beeps and alarms. (The writer had already established that as a regular occurrence.) We heard. . .

* I’d get up in the morning like every other mother and take my son to school and to the tennis courts at the nearby park. After three sets of doubles, I’d hop in the car and I'd head to Macys. (I'd means I would and the writer established customary behavior with the first word. In the final clause, it should read, I hopped. . .I headed.) 

Would as a helping verb establishes usual behavior. 
You need to use it only once.


  1. This is very helpful. I had this question come up just the other day in something I was editing. Thank you!

    Adam Blumer

  2. I've edited out "would" so many times and had forgotten about its use to indicate habituality. Thanks for the clarification, Cec.

  3. Great lesson, Cec. I don't think I've ever heard anyone address that writing tip. It's one I needed to hear.


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