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).

Speak English Fluently!

How to Use "Used To" in EnglishHi! I’m Clare, an English teacher and the founder of this site.

I can help you speak English more easily! Start here for English fluency:

10 Essential Fluency Phrases – Get the phrases for easy conversations
NEW: Advanced English Speaking In 100 Steps – Your step-by-step program to get to Advanced level

27 thoughts on “How to Use “Used To” in English”

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

    xoxo, from brazil

  6. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.”)

Comments are closed.