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.


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.


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:


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.


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?