Why can’t we use “would like” in this context?

When we know that we use “would” for past actions [ the same as used to ], why in the below test is not a correct answer:

When I was a child I . . . . to climb trees.
liked would like was liking like

Which the answer sheet says “ liked” is the correct answer.

But I chose “would like” as I’ve read a lot such sentences like:

  • When I was young I **would **do my homework every evening.’
  • 'In the summer we **would **always **go **camping.
  • Oh, those days, sometimes she would phone me in the middle of the night

Was the test checking a specific grammatical concept (such as “which answer is in the past tense” or what have you) or simply just which of these is grammatically correct?

Good question; the answer is that “would” in this past-action context refers to habitual or occasional actions, not to continuous states of being.

For example, you might say “When I was a kid my family would go to Mass every Sunday”, but you wouldn’t say “When I was a kid my family would be very devout Catholics”. You’d have to say “When I was a kid my family were very devout Catholics”.

Because the going-to-Mass was a habitual repeated action, but the being-devout-Catholics was a state or condition that you presumably were in all the time. Continuous states require the simple past tense.

So in your example, you might say “When I was a child I would climb trees every chance I got”, but “When I was a child I liked to climb trees”. Because the actual climbing of trees is an action, but the attitude of liking to climb them is a continuous state.

The test was asking which one is correct, General Grammar ( and surprisingly for Elementary Level!)

Thanks a lot, but I need more explanation, isn’t the actual phoning of her (in sentence example) an action too? And we used “would” ; “she would phone me”

Moved Cafe Society --> MPSIMS.

Very concise and perfect answer. I knew the answer intuitively, but couldn’t explain it nearly as eloquently as you did. Bravo

Yes. The habitual nature of past actions can be expressed with “would”: “back then she would phone me at midnight”, “in the last years of Grandma’s life she would bake us cookies every week”, and so on.

But constant or continuous states of being don’t take “would”. You can’t say, for example, “in the last years of Grandma’s life she would be very frail”. It’s “in the last years of Grandma’s life she was very frail”, with the simple past tense.

“To phone”, “to do homework”, “to go camping”, “to bake cookies”, “to climb trees”: these all represent actions that are carried out at discrete times. But “to be”, “to like”, etc., represent states or conditions that are continuous over some period.

(And thanks, AnthonyElite!)

Another peculiarity of English usage: we say phoning only for the process (dialing, waiting for answer) of initially placing the call. Once the other party answers, we say we’re* talking on the phone.*

Excellent answer, Kimtsu.
I would have been stumped myself.

Reza, if it helps, here are some more examples of when you can and can’t use would.

OK “When I was young, I would (often) enjoy climbing trees.”
(In this case, “enjoy” is the “occasional action” or experience that Kimtsu explained.)

OK “If I were young again, I would love to climb those trees once more.”
(Would being used to express a hypothetical situation.)

NG “When I was young, I would have a pet mouse.”
(To have is a continuous state, not an action or experience. Unless you’re talking about your eating habits, as in “. . . for dinner every Sunday”!)

OK “When I was young, I had a pet mouse.”

Thanks a lot, Penny has finally duly dropped !

I wish I could ask my English questions directly from you through PM, so that I don’t bore others. could I?

If not, then tell me if I keep posting my questions here, will you have the chance of reading all of them?

Anyway, Thanks for other members who as well answered or commented my question.

You are all cool !

[ Do please correct my words even in my replies and and comments for any single better way of saying something or the correct usages and structure. For instance feel free to check over my correct usage of " as well" in my above comment ].

Thank you so much, this is Something!

I for one think you ought to keep posting them as threads. I have an intuitive understanding of how English works due to a voracious reading habit, but I can’t usually explain the reasons why things are certain ways - it’s very interesting to see that they are actually confusing, and to have clear answers by smarter Dopers.

As for the ‘as well,’ above, I would have phrased it ‘thanks as well to other members who answered or commented.’ I can’t explain the placement of ‘as well’ but I can say that it usually is ‘thanks to’ rather than ‘thanks for’ in that particular type of sentence - you’re offering thanks TO the people, rather than thanking them FOR something. Even though you did specify the something, it was in another phrase, so it doesn’t impact the ‘thanks to’ from before.

“Would” used in this context is an example of the Pluperfect Tense (also known as the Past Perfect Tense).

Thanks a lot, yes you are right about “Thank to sb” and " thank for sth"

Keep correcting me. [ even the minor ones, I love it! ]

I would love to see all those fancy-ass Latinate terms for tenses get tossed out the window once and for all. What is “perfect” about the “perfect tense”? And don’t get me started on “pluperfect.”

There are three basic elements to verb tense: past/present/future, continuous through or ending at the moment in question, and certain/conditional (other confusing terms are “aspect” and “modal” for the two latter qualities). Therefore, we could describe the simple tenses with a maximum of three words; two, if we understood that when we didn’t say “conditional” we meant “certain.” I’m sure it would help my ESL learners as well as my elementary-level students if the tenses had literal names that described what they were.