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Dear teachers,

“The family soon settled into a relaxing routine. Each morning Stevenson (1) would get up / used to get up early and take them out for long walks (2) over / on (?) the hills.”

Would you please tell me :

1) If it’s true that the difference between “used to” and “would” is that “used to” expresses a past habit that is no longer true today; and that “would” expresses a past habit that might still be taking place today?

2) Which preposition is best? If both are possible what would be the difference between them, please?

3) "Although he (a) had lived / had been living / lived abroad for many years, in 1881 he returned to the land of his birth for a holiday. With him (b) were / was (? = what’s the rule for concord here?) his American wife Fanny, whom he had met five years earlier in France, and his stepchildren from Franny’s first marriage."

Many thanks,

Hela
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Comments  
1. I'd say your discrimination of the two is well done. It suddenly occurs to me, however, that very unusually someone might use "would" to state an action the subject MIGHT have taken BUT did not for some reason that is normally stated; as:

"He would take the train but for the lack of a travelling companion."

2. I HAVE heard someone say, He walked over the hill (singular hill). But I have never heard anyone say, He walked over the hills (plural). Nor have I ever heard anyone say, He walked on the hills. I think that normally people say, He walked IN the hills. Or, He walked TO the hills (emphasizing the journey and positing some remoteness to the hills).

3. The three choices re "living" are a little complicated and I have not the time to address them just now; but ALL THREE are grammatically correct. The last sentence, With him WERE his American wife....... The verb should be plural since the implied subject is "wife" and "stepchildren".

Happy conjugating!

Jim
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Hi,

“The family soon settled into a relaxing routine. Each morning Stevenson (1) would get up / used to get up early and take them out for long walks (2) over / on (?) the hills.”

Would you please tell me :

1) If it’s true that the difference between “used to” and “would” is that “used to” expresses a past habit that is no longer true today; and that “would” expresses a past habit that might still be taking place today? Perhaps. But here it's a subtle difference and not one that I would really think about much.

2) Which preposition is best? If both are possible what would be the difference between them, please? Both are OK. 'Over' might suggest 'to the other side', ie up one side and down the other, it wouldn't be totally clear what was meant. 'Over' is also a bit more stylish, more literary.

3) "Although he (a) had lived / had been living / lived abroad for many years, in 1881 he returned to the land of his birth for a holiday. With him (b) were / was (? = what’s the rule for concord here?) his American wife Fanny, whom he had met five years earlier in France, and his stepchildren from Franny’s first marriage." Plural people, say 'were'.

Clive
Hello Hela

"Would" can often be used to express a past habit that is no longer possible – for instance in obituaries.

I think the difference is more one of tone. "Every morning she would do X" is used in contexts with a strong sense of narrative, where we want to focus in a sustained way on the past (e.g. in obituaries, descriptions of former girlfriends, etc.).

You also find this "would" in fiction, where (for instance) a character's habits are described (thus you might find it in some translations of the opening of Flaubert's Un Coeur Simple, for instance, where F. uses the imperfect tense).

MrP
To Jim,

Thank you for your explanations and the grammar sites. If you find more of these lessons and exercises would you please send them to me?
AnonymousThe three choices re "living" are a little complicated and I have not the time to address them just now.
When you find the time would you please tell me about the nuances between them?

To MrP,

What do YOU think of the difference between :

a) the prepositions "over / in the hills" ?

Is "ON the hills" incorrect then?

b) the tenses of "live"?

Many thanks to all of you.

Hela
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Can I butt in with my interpretation

In the hills - this means in the hills region in general. You would need a lot of hills for this. Similar to the use of 'lakes' for districts with lots of lakes. 'Hills' is almost being used as a name here.

Over the hills - this suggests a pretty long strenuous walk to me, up and down hills.

On the hills - If there is only one hill then you absolutely have to say 'on the hill - or possibly over if you are going up and then down the other side. If there is more than one hill, then you could say on but it sounds like a less serious walk to me. 'Where's John?' 'He's taking the dog for a walk on the hills'. Similar in use to in the hills, but for a few specific hills rather than a geographic region.
Nona The BritCan I butt in with my interpretation

.... If there is more than one hill, then you could say on but it sounds like a less serious walk to me. 'Where's John?' 'He's taking the dog for a walk on the hills'. Similar in use to in the hills, but for a few specific hills rather than a geographic region.

On the hills, the air is fresher and the dog can run free without fear of coming into contact with sheep. Where I come from (NW England) "on the hills means "high up" or "at the highest part". The walk to get there is a serious walk, I can tell you.
Good point, I guess anywhere with lots of hills is going to be hard work! I still don't think it sounds quite as daunting as 'in the hills' but of course these things are not laid down with precise rules. Different people will use the same word differently.
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