There used to be more tinsel!
In the Loriet-Sketch Weihnachten bei Hoppenstedts there is a famous saying: “Früher war mehr Lametta!” Now what does this mean? The speaker is clearly talking about a time that is not just in the past but different from today. In German, we often use “früher” to express this. In English we say “used to.”
To better undersand this, let’s compare structures.
- Früher ging er jeden Tag ins Büro zu Fuß.
- Früher wohnten wir auf dem Lande.
- Er war früher ein guter Tanzer.
- Früher war mehr Lametta!
- He used to walk to his office every day.
- We used to live in the country.
- He used to be a good dancer.
- There used to be more tinsel.
"would" to talk about repeated activities in the past
You can use “would” to talk about routines (actions) in the past. You cannot use this to talk about a state.
No direct German equivalent.
- We would always go to the seaside for our holidays. (We used to go to the seaside for our holidays)
- I would go swimming. (I used to go swimming)
- My mother would tell me to be careful. (My mother used to tell me to be careful).
"Why is this important?
We use this to remember the the habits and routines we had in the past but do not have now. Look at the following examples taken directly from conversation between two native speakers as they talk about Christmas memories from their childhood.
And how did you use to celebrate Christmas as a kid? When would you open presents? On Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day?
My mother would always let us open one present on Christmas Eve, and it was always pyjamas. But then, we used to open everything else on Christmas Day.