What implications do we get when we use the past tense? For example, if I say that when I was younger, I used to play football, does this imply that now I don't?

  • I'd call that redundant or ambiguous. "When I was younger I played football" and "I used to play football" both mean I played football in the past but I currently don't. But "In the past I used to play football" is murky. In the past you didn't play football. In the past you USED to play football ... in the even farther past? If I'm your English teacher I knock off a point or two and tell you to be precise and not ambiguous. Like the guy who pretended to be an imposter. He didn't pretend to fly planes or be a war hero. He merely pretended to be an imposter!
    – user4894
    Aug 5 '18 at 19:54

We often make inferences that do not follow directly from what was said, but that do follow if we also take into account the speaker's intent. For example, when a headline says "US Figure Skater Wins Silver Medal," strictly speaking it does not follow directly from that that the gold medal was not also won by a US figure skater. But, given that we also know the newspaper's intent in having maximally informative (or attention-grabbing?) headlines, it is safe to conclude that the gold medal was won by someone from a different country.

It seems that your example is similar -- from the fact that you played football in the past it does not follow directly that you don't anymore, but in most circumstances it is safe to assume that you would have expressed yourself differently in that case.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.