What are the USE TO – USED TO rules?


Used+to+infinitive expresses something that would happen in the past, but not anymore.

  • I used to weigh 100 kilos, but now I’m only 70.
  • My father used to smoke, but he quit.
  • Stacey used to work at an accounting firm, but she moved to an insurance company.

The negative form of this structure is “didn’t+use+to+infinitive”, or with a negative adverb “never used to”. Here we’re discussing something that didn’t happen in the past but does now.

  • I didn’t use to like exercising, but I love it now.
  • He never used to travel for work, but that all changed after his promotion.
  • My parents didn’t use to let me stay up past 10 pm, but now I’m 30 and can go to bed when I like.

On the other hand, “verb be+used+to+object (often a gerund) talks about something that is normal or regular in a person’s life. A synonym for this would be to be “accustomed”.

  • As an ESL teacher, I am used to answering questions about English.
  • They were used to hard work. They’d had manual labor jobs for over ten years.
  • My mom is used to only getting a little sleep. She has raised six kids on her own!

The negative version of this is to make the “verb be” negative. So, is=isn’t, am=am not, are=aren’t. When using the negative “be used to” structure, we’re talking about something that is out of the ordinary or not commonplace for us.

  • Driving a car in America is hard for someone who isn’t used to driving on the right-hand side.
  • I am not used to this new phone yet. I still don’t know where my contacts are kept.
  • David and Sarah aren’t used to having people over. They usually kept their home life private.

Be used to can also be placed into the past tense by changing the be verb to the past tense.

  • Is used to = was used to
  • Isn’t used to = wasn’t used to
  • Am used to = was used to
  • Am not used to = wasn’t used to
  • Are used to = were used to
  • Aren’t used to = weren’t used to
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