I wouldn't listen

You warmed me and I wouldn’t listen.

Question: Is it okay to say I didn’t listen in this situation?
What’s the difference between wouldn’t and didn’t?

Thank you.

Yes, it’s OK to say didn’t.

I think the use of ‘wouldn’t’ here is for a repeated/habitual past action (similar to ‘used to’, although that wouldn’t work in this example). So the use of would indicates that the warning came repeatedly and was repeatedly ignored, whereas ‘didn’t’ could indicate just one warning.

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You warned me and I wouldn’t listen. = You warned me and I refused to listen.
Actually means that I listened to what you said, but I refused to heed your warning.

You warned me and I didn’t listen. = You warned me and I failed to listen.
I listened to what you said, but I failed to heed your warning.


It’s of course true that “would” can be used to express a habitual past action, as pointed out by jungleboy.
In this case, however, I wouldn’t interpret it that way. I’m more convinced by brucenator’s explanation (I refused to listen). Notice that the sentence says “you warned me” not “you would warn me”, suggesting a single warning.

The way I (as a non-native speaker) think of this construction is as the past equivalent of “won’t” in sentences such as
“The engine won’t start”, “he won’t listen”, …

IMO, what happens in these examples is that the verb “will” is not used here so much as an auxiliary to make up future or conditional or habitual forms, as in most cases in modern English, but rather as a “normal” verb that retains a part of the original meaning of “will”, i.e. “want”, or more specifcally, the negative version “does/did not want” (won’t, wouldn’t)
He won’t listen = he does not want/he refuses to listen
He wouldn’t listen = he did not want/he refused to listen

Another wonderful example by sir Paul Macca: