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  1. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #1

    "used to" with the past perfect

    I was wondering if my fellow native speakers find it acceptable for the past perfect to be used with used to:

    (1a) I used to smoke.
    (1b) ? In 1995, I had not used to smoke. (versus: In 1995, I did not use(d) to smoke. / In 1995, it was not the case that I used to smoke.)

    (2a) He said, "I used to smoke."
    (2b) ? He said that he had used to smoke. (versus without "backshift": He said that he used to smoke.)

    The (b) sentences do not sit well with me, but I can't quite say I find them ungrammatical. What do you think?

    Thank you.

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    #2

    Re: "used to" with the past perfect

    They worked for Jane Austen. They don't work for me.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: "used to" with the past perfect

    What about this? Does this work for my fellow natives? It seems to sit much better with me, but I have mixed feelings.

    (3) He may/might have used to smoke. [to be interpreted as meaning: "It is possible that he used to smoke."]

    It's a different use of the perfect. It might be called the "modal perfect," as opposed to the present or the past perfect.

    I realize this changes the topic slightly, but it is still close enough, I feel, for there to be no need for a separate thread.
    Last edited by Phaedrus; 24-Aug-2019 at 03:54. Reason: typo

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    #4

    Re: "used to" with the past perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    What about this? Does this work for my fellow natives? It seems to sit much better with me, but I have mixed feelings.

    (3) He may/might have used to smoke. [to be interpreted as meaning: "It is possible that he used to smoke."]
    I can't imagine saying that. It wouldn't occur to me. He might have smoked once is a natural way to express the idea.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "used to" with the past perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I can't imagine saying that. It wouldn't occur to me. He might have smoked once is a natural way to express the idea.
    Or:

    He might have once been a smoker.
    He may have smoked for a time.


    With used to, the meaning is not just a past occurrence (He smoked once) but a past habit (He smoked regularly).

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    #6

    Re: "used to" with the past perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    Or:

    He might have once been a smoker.
    He may have smoked for a time.


    With used to, the meaning is not just a past occurrence (He smoked once) but a past habit (He smoked regularly).
    I should have said He might once have been a smoker. That's unambiguous.
    I am not a teacher.

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