5

How would the translation of the habitual past

He would visit the beach everyday

differ from the one of the simple past

He visited the beach everyday?

when translating those sentences to German?

8

Of course, the simple past can be translated as

Er ging jeden Tag zum Strand.

Expressing the habitual past isn't that easy. You can use the verb "pflegen" to express the habitual aspect:

Er pflegte jeden Tag zum Strand zu gehen.

However, this is quite elevated style; you wouldn't normally say that, it rather fits into a novel.

As an alternative, you could explicitly talk about the habit, like

Es war seine Gewohnheit, jeden Tag zum Strand zu gehen.

or

Er hatte die Angewohnheit, jeden Tag zum Strand zu gehen.

Again, this is for written conversation. I think in everyday speech you would just use the simple past, except for the cases where you could employ "immer" as suggested by Emanuel.

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  • +1 for "pflegen zu". Completely forgot about that one. – Emanuel May 20 '15 at 14:43
  • Pflegen is the normal everyday word in Yiddish for habitual pased (= "used to" in Englsih). – Marty Green May 20 '15 at 17:35
6

One very common way to talk about habits is the word "immer".

Thomas hat sich immer selber Essen mitgebracht.
Thomas would bring his own food all the time.

However, that doesn't work if it's only an occasional habit or (as in your example) if there is a second, more specific indication of time.

Ich bin immer jeden Tag zum Strand gegangen... sounds odd to me.

Generally, German doesn't make too much of an effort in making a distinction.

Thomas ist oft zum Strand gegangen.

This can be just pure information about how frequently he did go as well as a description of his habits. It's up to context what comes across. If you really feel like you need to underline the habit you'd have to make a sentence about that.

Thomas hatte die Angewohnheit, jeden Tag zum Strand zu gehen.

That sounds already quite scripted though and you won't hear this in spoken German all that much.

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1

To me, the would puts emphasis on the temporary nature and the start of the habit. The best translation for this I can think of is

Er hatte es sich zur Gewohnheit gemacht, jeden Tag an den Strand zu gehen.

or

Er hatte sich angewöhnt, jeden Tag an den Strand zu gehen.

This stresses the temporary nature better than Er hatte die Angewohnheit / Es war seine Gewohnheit, which makes it sound as if the habit has always been there.

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