Used to

Used to Grammar Guide

Form

Subject + used to + INF + Object

Used to is a common structure in English used to refer to things in the past which are no longer true.

used to + INF

did not (didn't) use to + INF

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?

Did + Subject + use to + INF...?

He used to play for Barcelona

We didn't use to enjoy watching the team

Did you use to live together?

+

Important Notes

Positive statements:

The used to form does not change in positive statements.

The structure is not used with to be as an auxiliary

It always refers to the past

Negative forms:

The common form of the negative structure (as above) is did not use to or didn't use to.

It can be used with a final d (didn't used to) but is considered incorrect so do not use that structure in exam or formal environments.

In very formal or even old fashioned language, the negative form can be used not to

We used not to attend church on Fridays

Question forms

Common use with auxiliary did. As with negative forms, it can be observed with a final d, but this structure should not be used in exam or formal situations as it is considered incorrect.

Did you use to work with James in Leeds?

Didn't you used to work with James in Leeds?

 

Question tag structures: Using a question tag with the auxiliary did is a common structure.

You used to work with James in Leeds didn't you?

Emphatic language

We can use the auxiliary did with used to to make the statement emphatic but this should not be used in a written form in exams

I never used to work with James but I did use to live with him

Function

This structure is used when:

  • We refer to things in the past that are no longer true

        This can refer to repeated actions, a state or situation
 

He used to play football but he is retired now

We used to live in the UK but we moved to Spain
 

Used to or would

Used to or would can be used to talk about habits in the past with the same meaning.

If we use them in tandem, used to is more commonly put first, to set the scene for the latter actions.

When we were younger we got very excited on Christmas Day. We used to wake up really early to open our presents and our parents would tell us to go back to bed

Used to but not would can be used to describe a state or situation that is no longer true.

We used to live in Leeds

NOT: We would live in Leeds

That pub used to be a church

NOT: That pub would be a church

Used to or be used to

Used to refers to the past.

She used to study piano but she stopped

Be used to means "to become familiar with" or "to be accustomed to" and can refer to past, present and future.

She works in a hospital so she is used to working long hours

She doesn't like living in the centre of London, she's not used to the noise

We were used to travelling by night in those days

Please note: Be used to is followed by a noun phrase, a gerund or pronoun.

Get used to or more formally become used to can also be used.

Spanish culture is very different, but you will soon get used to it

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