Ahmed,

I must respectfully disagree with you here.  Mr Swan says:

It is not used simply to say ... how long it took, or how many times it happened.

and he gives the example:

I used to go to France seven times last year.

What he appears to fail to address is that, when used to speak of past habitual action, it can be used with expressions of frequency.  So if we change "last" to "a", the sentence is perfectly acceptable.

I used to go to France seven times a year.

I used to go to France quite often.  How often?  Seven times a year.

So, Ceedhanna's example

a: I used to go to the club three days a week when I was young.

is correct, but these would not be:

a': I used to go to the club three days when I was young.
a'': I used to go to the club for three days when I was young.

since (a') tells how many times (total) it happened and (a'') tells how long it took.

I also find (b), "would go", acceptable, but it would sound better to me if the sentence were inverted:

b': When I was young, I would go to the club three days a week.

DocV

ceedhanna posted:

- I ........... to the club three days a week when I was young.

a- used to go

b- would go

c- went

I agree with DocV that all three answers are correct. (And like him, I think "would go" would work better if "when I was young" were fronted, since that would clarify up front that it was habitual rather than conditional "would" that was being used.) I'd like to add some comments on why the "when"-clause in Ceedhanna's example does not violate Swan's rule.

Swan says, "Used to refers to things that happened at an earlier stage of one's life" (p. 595). It is easy to see that "when I was young" qualifies as specifying an earlier stage of the speaker's life. Of course, it needn't be one's own life, or even anyone's life. (Swan is simply providing some easy-to-digest generalizations as rules of thumb for the learner.) The following sentences are all correct:

  • I used to go to the club three days a week when I was young.
  • Obama used to be on television a lot when he was president.
  • There used to be better graphics on the Grammar Exchange when the website was on its original platform.
  • He used to smoke two packs a day when he was in the army.

The feature that those "when"-clauses have in common is that they refer to a period of time. Punctual "when"-clauses are possible with "used to," as well, but the interpretation changes, the "when"-clause having a different syntactic scope. The sentence "She used to say hello when she saw me" isn't talking about one past occasion. It means "She used to say hello every time she saw me."

All good points, David.  I would also add that the "when"-clause, as your "every time" example illustrates, does not actually need to contain the word "when"; they can take many forms, such as "during the Reagan years" or "in my first year of college".  I would also say that the "when"-clause can be omitted with "used to", since "used to" by itself makes it clear that this is a continuous state or habitual action that happened for a period of time in the past.

a''': I used to go to the club three days a week.

However, such a clause, or at least some explanatory precedent, is needed with the habitual "would"; without them, "would" must be understood as conditional, as illustrated by the second and third sentences of this post illustrate.

b''': I would go to the club three days a week.

By itself, this sentence is what seems to me a rather stiffly formal way of saying  "My desire is to go to the club three days a week", as per the title of Rudyard Kipling's famous story "The Man Who Would Be King".

DocV

 

Doc V posted:

I would also say that the "when"-clause can be omitted with "used to", since "used to" by itself makes it clear that this is a continuous state or habitual action that happened for a period of time in the past.

a''': I used to go to the club three days a week.

Definitely, DocV. The "when"-adverbial isn't needed. It's bonus information, or information that anticipates what might be a natural follow-up question in conversation. One's interlocutor or reader may naturally wish to know the period of time during which the past habit obtained -- for example:

A: I used to go to the club three days a week.
B: When?
A: When I was young. / During college. / Before you knew me. / A long time ago.

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