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Simplifying “Used To” Once and for All

“USED TO DO something” means something was happening on a regular basis in the past but is not happening anymore. “USED TO DOING something” means that you have become acclimated to a certain behavior, situation, or lifestyle.

Anming Alexander
Anming Alexander

Used to Do Something (used to + infinitive verb)

Meaning: Things you did in the past on a regular basis. Means you no longer do them.

I used to take belly dance lessons.
I used to weigh 95 kilograms.
I used to work out every day.

Negative form:

I never used to like tripe.*
I never used to watch horror movies.
I never used to take risks.

*Things you didn’t do on a regular basis. Means now you do them. For example, “I never used to like tripe” says something about your past, but it also says something about your present: now you like tripe. (Note: If you want to say that you didn’t like it in the past and you still don’t like it, you can say, “I have never liked tripe.”)

I didn’t use to like salmon.**
We didn’t use to fight so much.
You didn’t use to be so rude.

**We are using USE instead of USED because the past tense is denoted by DID/DIDN’T. The same thing happens in question form. This is where people get confused but it’s not so tricky.

Question form:

Did he use to practice everyday?
Did they use to wake up earlier?
Did you use to work full-time?

Basically, if you use DID (questions and negative form), you have already put the sentence in past tense, so you can just say USE TO instead of USED TO.

In reality, most native speakers actually don’t even know this rule and it’s not important in conversation AT ALL, because you can’t even hear the difference between USE TO and USED TO in native conversation. The only reason you might need to know this is for a test, or if you’re doing some kind of formal writing.

The difference between USED TO DO something and USED TO DOING something

“USED TO DO something” means something was happening on a regular basis in the past but is not happening anymore.

“USED TO DOING something” means that you have become acclimated to a certain behavior, situation, or lifestyle.

Used to doing something (Used to + gerund)

I am used to waking up at 5 am.
She is used to drinking on weekends.
They are used to lying to get their way.

Negative form:

I am not used to running yet.
We still weren’t used to traveling.
I’m not used to adhering to a dress code.

Question form:

Simple form:

IS/ARE + subject + used to something

More common in conversation:

HAS/HAVE + subject + gotten used to something

Are you used to shoveling snow?
Has he gotten used to dealing with the traffic?
Have you gotten used to working from home?

Above, USED TO DOING something uses a gerund. Usually, where you can use a gerund, you can also use a noun. This structure is also common. Using a noun instead of a gerund can sometimes simplify your sentence.

Has he gotten used to dealing with the traffic? (gerund) = Has he gotten used to the traffic? (noun)

More examples using USED TO + NOUN:

He is used to the cold.
Have you gotten used to your new job?
They’re not used to strict rules.
She has never gotten used to the culture.
By now, everyone is used to online classes.
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Anming Alexander

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