‘Used to + infinitive’:
We use this expression to talk about habits or repeated actions in the past which we don’t do in the present. We also use it to talk about states in the past which are no longer true. For example:
- I used to have long hair (but now I have short hair).
- He used to smoke (but now he doesn’t smoke).
- They used to live in India (but now they live in Germany).
Watch out! With the negative and the question it’s ‘use’ and not ‘used’:
- Did you use to be a teacher?
- Did he use to study French?
- She didn’t use to like chocolate, but she does now.
- I didn’t use to want to have a nice house.
Note! With this ‘used to’ there is no verb ‘be’. We CAN’T say
‘I am used to have long hair’.
‘Would + infinitive’
We can also use ‘would + infinitive’ to talk about a habit or repeated action in the past. We usually use ‘would + infinitive’ in this way when we’re telling a story about the past. So, we can say:
- When I was a student, we would often have a drink after class on a Friday.
- When I lived in Italy, we would go to a little restaurant near our house.
However, we don’t use ‘would + infinitive’ to talk about states in the past. So, if we’re talking about the past, we CAN’T say:
I would have long hair. I would live in Scotland.
‘Be used to’:
We use ‘be used to + verb-ing’ to talk about things which feel normal for us or things that we are accustomed to:
- I’m used to getting up early, so I don’t mind doing it (= getting up early is normal for me, it’s what I usually do).
- My little daughter is used to eating lunch at noon. So she was grumpy yesterday when we didn’t eat until one.
Note that we make the negative or the question with the verb ‘be’ in the normal way. The ‘used to’ doesn’t change:
- Lucy isn’t used to staying up late, so she’s very tired today.
- Are your children used to walking a lot?
We can also use ‘be used to + noun’, which has the same meaning:
- I’ve lived in the UK almost all my life, so I’m used to rain (= rain is normal for me).
- That football team always lose, so they’re used to disappointment!
We can put the verb ‘be’ into any tense. So we can talk about things in the past or the future as well as the present using this expression:
- It was difficult when I first started university, because I wasn’t used to the amount of work we had to do.
- Soon I’ll be used to driving in London and I won’t be so frightened!
We can use ‘get used to + verb-ing’ to talk about the change of not normal to normal. We can also use this in any tense:
- Don’t worry if your new job is hard at first. You’ll get used to it.
- It took me a while, but I got used to speaking another language every day.
- It took me a few months to get used to living in Japan. At first everything seemed very different, but then gradually it became normal for me.