Back in the day, when we changed channels, we turned a dial on the television set.
Back in the day, if we didn’t know a telephone number, we looked it up in the phonebook.
“Back in the day” is an idiomatic phrase that is used to talk about the past. It conveys a feeling of nostalgia, and is often used to talk about happy memories. It’s a way of saying, “Do you remember when… ?”
I don’t like to admit it, but I am getting on in years. I’m not really OLD yet, but I’m old enough to remember that things were different “back in the day” before remote controls, smart phones, GPS, email, digital cameras, and laptops. Back in the day…
- If we went on a trip, we carried a map.
- When we took photographs, we developed prints from the film.
- When we researched school assignments, we used a set of encyclopedias.
- If we wrote a term paper, we used a typewriter.
To talk about what life was like “back in the day,” the Past Real Conditional form is helpful. All the examples above use this form. It is one of the “real” forms because you use it to talk about real situations that happened, not what you wish had happened.
When we use this form, the feeling is that things are different now. Maybe because your habits have changed, or because times have changed. The Past Real Conditional form uses simple past tense:
When we wanted music, we played a record.
Conditional sentences have two parts – the condition, and the result. In the sentence above, the condition is “When we wanted music.” The result is ”we played a record,” which explains what happened as a result of the condition. It doesn’t matter if the condition or the result comes first; they can be switched around.
The condition part of the sentence begins with when or if. Use when to talk about something that happened regularly. Use if to talk about something that happened sometimes.
The phrase used to is sometimes used with this form to describe an action that you did often in the past, but no longer do. Used to + verb can replace the past tense verb in the “result” part of the conditional sentence:
When we traveled, we used to write letters home.
If we needed to make a call, we used to use a pay phone.
Things the Internet Killed lists more ways things were different back in the day.
What are your memories from back in the day?