Then & Now: “Used to…” or “Be used to…”?

We use the modal verb used to + the simple form of the verb (V1 or the base form of the verb with no changes) to talk about a past habit.  We use it when the present is different from the past.  Here are two examples.

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When I was young, I used to wear braces.  This was true in the past, but it isn’t any more.  I wore them because I used to have crooked teeth.  Now my teeth are straight.  I used to hate wearing braces because food used to get stuck in them.  Also, kids used to tease me.  None of these things happen any more.

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My friend used to be a soldier.  He isn’t any more.  He used to wear a uniform and have short hair.  He used to carry a gun.  He doesn’t any more.

  • If you want to make this form negative (–), do it like this:

I didn’t use to have straight teeth when I was a kid.

My friend didn’t use to have long hair when he was a soldier.

Practice:  Answer these questions using “used to”–

  1. What did you use to look like when you were a teenager?
  2. What games did you use to like to play?
  3. What didn’t you use to like about your high school?

 

If we want to talk about a current habit, we use a different modal form of use to: be used to + -ing.

For example:

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I have driven a car for many years.  Because I have so much practice, I am used to driving.  I am used to adjusting my driving speed to go with the flow of traffic.  I am used to going around corners.  I am used to parking.

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I have worn glasses since I was young.  I am used to wearing them.  They don’t bother me.  I am used to going to the eye doctor to have my eyes checked.  I am used to defogging them in the snow.  I am used to protecting them when I play sports.

  • If you want to make this form negative, just add “not” after the “be” verb.

I am not used to driving a motor cycle since I only have a car.

I am not used to using contact lenses.  I only wear glasses.

Practice:  Answer these questions using “be used to”

  1. Think of a hobby that you have.  What are you used to doing to participate in that hobby?
  2. Think of a place in which you like to spend time.  What are you used to doing in that place?
  3. What are some things that you aren’t used to doing and why?

 

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