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This story will help us think twice before judging others.
And remember, the same as "beauty is in the eye of the beholder*", we can say that faults can also be in the eye of the beholder. Because we tend to see the straw in the eyes of others and we do not see the beam in ours**.
*BEHOLDER= The person who looks, the observer (in old English, "to behold" means "to look") This old English proverb means that people or things are not beautiful or ugly, it is our perception that makes us think they are one thing or the other. That is, beauty (and other qualities) is subjective, so two different people may have two different judgments about the same thing.
**This is a very well known quotation from the Bible. It means that it is very easy to see faults in other people, even small ones, but it is very difficult to see our own faults, even if they are very bid. So before judging and criticising others we should try to be aware of our own mistakes, because they might be much bigger than the ones we are criticising.
A young couple moves into a new neighbourhood. The next morning, while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees the neighbour hang her wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean,” she said, “she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” The husband looked on, but remained silent.
Every time her neighbour would hang her wash out to dry, the young woman would make the same comment. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look! She has learned to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this”. The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
And so it is life: What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. Before we give any criticism, it might be a good idea to check our state of mind and ask ourselves if we are ready to see the good rather than to be looking for something in the person we are about to judge.
And, oh yes! I almost forgot... I see you today much cleaner than I did yesterday... and you?
HER WASH= (Also “her washing”) Her laundry.
LAUNDRY= The dirty clothes put aside for washing, or the clean clothes you have just washed and need drying.
SOAP= A substance used for washing or cleaning, consisting of a mixture of sodium or potassium salts of naturally occurring fatty acids. A detergent. Laundry soap is a liquid or powder used to clean your laundry.
THE YOUNG WOMAN WOULD MAKE THE SAME COMMENT= We can use the verb WOULD to express a habit in the past. We can also use the verb USED TO to express habits in the past, but there is a difference (see explanation at the end).
THE LINE= The laundry line is a rope where you hang your clothes to dry.
CRITICISM= The act of criticizing, especially adversely. To CRITICISE (in BrE also “criticize”) is to judge the merits and faults of; analyze and evaluate, especially to find faults.
RATHER THAN= Instead of.
PAST HABIT: Used to / Would / Simple past
USED TO can express a habit or a state (a situation), but WOULD can only express a habit
- I used to get up at 8 o’clock, but now I get up later = I would get up at 8 o’clock, but now I get up later.
- That house used to look very old, but now they have repaired it. (a state. We can’t say: “that house would look very old”)
We can also use the simple past for past habits (the same as we use the simple present for present habits), but it is more ambiguous (sometimes we can’t tell if it’s a habit or just one action):
- When I was a child I got up at 8 o’clock every day (here, the phrase “every day” tells us that it is a habit)
We can use both USED TO and WOULD to express a repeated action in the past:
- When I was at the university, I used to phone her twice a day
- When I was at the university, I would phone her twice a day
But USED TO is more common, and it emphasizes the contrast between past and present (that habit is not true anymore).
In a story, WOULD usually gives a feeling of nostalgia for the past:
- When I was a child, my brother and I would play in the garden at my grandma’s house.
Only USED TO is possible if we talk about a situation:
- They used to be very happy before that happened
- She used to live near here (but now she doesn’t)
- This room used to be red, but we decided to paint it white.
According to the Elements of Style by W. Strunk & E.B. White:
"[WOULD is] commonly used to express habitual or repeated action. ('He would get up early and prepare his own breakfast before he went to work.') But when the idea of habit or repetition is expressed, in such phrases as once a year, everyday, each Sunday, the past tense, without would, is usually sufficient, and, from its brevity, more emphatic.
Incorrect: 'Once a year he would visit the old mansion.'
Correct: 'Once a year he visited the old mansion.'
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