How to Use "Used To" in English

We can use "used to" to talk about a past habit or state.

An example for a state: "He used to live in London" (but he doesn't now)

An example for a habit: "He used to go on holiday to Scotland every year" (but he doesn't now)

"Used to" is the same for all subjects, and you follow it with the infinitive without "to":

"I / You / He / She / We / They used to smoke."

To make the negative, use "didn't" + use + to + verb. (Remove the final /d/ ending from "used".)

"I / He didn't use to smoke."

To make the question, use "did" as the auxiliary, and take the final /d/ ending off "used":

"Did you / she use to smoke?"

To talk about past habits in English, you can also use would + infinitive without "to":

"We would go to Scotland every year when I was a child."
"We would travel there by car overnight."

However, you cannot use "would" in this way to talk about past states. For this, you must use "used to".

Be used to + doing

There's a big difference between used to do - to talk about past habits or states and is used to doing - to talk about our familiarity with a place, or activity.

The form is subject + verb to be + used to + verb in the ing form / noun

"I am / was used to studying English every day."
"I am used to his jokes." (example with a noun)
"You are / were used to studying English every day."
"He is / was used to studying English every day."

You can change the verb "to be" with the verb "get" to talk about the process of becoming used to something (rather than the state of being used to something).

"If you live in England, you will get used to driving on the left!" (= it will no longer be a problem for you)
"He finally got used to the winter weather."

Don't make the mistake of combining both forms to make an ungrammatical sentence like "I am used to study."

Remember: Either "I used to study" (past habit but no longer true) or
"I am used to studying" (I am familiar with studying).

37 thoughts on “How to Use "Used To" in English

  1. Mike

    So I f I'm Master of Arts in Philosophy - I can say that "I used to study philosophy"?
    Or "I was studying philosophy"?

  2. Clare Post author

    It depends if you are still studying Philosophy or not. If you studied it in the past (and no longer study it) you can say "I used to study Philosophy".

  3. virendra tiwari

    when ever we are doing any work a long time that time can use used to . like us .for example .

    i used to living in delhi but no longer now .

    second example .
    i used to eating peanut but now longer now .

  4. Clare Post author

    The sentences should be "I used to live in Delhi" and "I used to eat peanuts". We follow "used to" with the infinitive to talk about things that we did in the past but don't now.

  5. gabriela

    thank u very much, this was my english homework, so it was very helpful :)

    xoxo, from brazil

  6. Emily

    If the sentence is:"I never _________ go to school by car.Did you used to go by car?" So the question here is what word I can fill the blank? Are there anyone can help me please?

  7. Clare Post author

    Hi Emily
    The question should be "Did you use to go by car?" and not "Did you used to...?". In the sentence, there will be two words to fill the blank: "I never USED TO go to school by car."

  8. Nadine

    What if I'm writing a story which is already written in past tense and I want to express what happened before the time the story is set, for example "I HADN'T USED TO like babies, but my niece was so adorable I had changed my mind", or would that be wrong?

  9. Clare Post author

    You could write "I didn't use to like babies". You don't need to use the past perfect tense because it's clear that this state of not liking babies preceeded the event of meeting your niece.

  10. Vilma

    I just met a context where a simple past tense would have been better than the modal verb. The text read ` X used to be minister of Labor between March 2016 and January 2017`. I would have used a simple `was (Minister of Labor)` in this case. To me, both the fact that holding a position continuously is not really a habit and the precise dates indicate that the past tense is better in this case. However, I am not a native speaker and I may be wrong :) . Could you please advise?

  11. Clare Post author

    Hi Vilma. I think that both the "used to" and Past Simple tense would be fine. As a native speaker, I'd probably tend towards the Past tense, but we can also use "used to" for past states - as well as past habits. ("We used to live in a city, but now we live in the countryside.")

  12. Songsan

    Is this sentence grammatically correct?
    In the Joseon Dynasty four social classes used to be.
    If not, could you explain why?

  13. Clare Post author

    No. You could say "There used to be four social classes in the Joseon Dynasty" or "In the Joseon Dynasty there used to be / there were four social classes."

  14. Geo

    Can we say instead of it was not normal for me to eat steak in the past.
    i was not used to eating or i didnit use to it

  15. Clare Post author

    I am used to doing = I am familiar with doing something now. I was used to doing = I was familiar with doing something in the past.

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