Used to/Be used to

Introduction

Phrases with used to are often confused due to their similarity, but they actually have quite different meanings. Master the difference between used to, get used to and be used to with Lingolia, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

I used to live in Germany but I moved to the UK last year.

The culture shock was difficult at first, but I’m used to the British lifestyle now – I am even getting used to having milk in my tea!

My English never used to be very good, but now I’m used to speaking it every day.

Some of the local accents can be hard to understand, but you get used to it.

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used to + infinitive

Meaning

The structure used to + infinitive talks about

  • repeated past habits and actions that we no longer do. Compare:
    Examples:
    When I was a child, I used to go to Disneyland.
    I was there often – used to shows us that this was a repeated action in the past.
    When I was a child, I went to Disneyland.
    I was there once.
  • states or circumstances that are no longer the same as before
    Example:
    My English used to be terrible.
    My English wasn’t very good for a long time, but now it is better.

We do not use this structure to say when things happened. We use the past simple to talk about when or one-off actions.

Example:
I moved to the UK last year. not I used to move to the UK last year.

Note

This structure is only used to talk about the past, there is no present, progressive or future form. To talk about present habits we use the present simple together with adverbs of frequency (always, usually etc.)

Form

We form negatives and questions with didn’t and did.

Although both did(n’t) ... use to and did(n’t) ... used to are common in spoken English, did(n’t) ... used to is considered incorrect and should not be used in written English or in exams.

Example:
I didn’t use to speak English before I lived here. (not: I didn't used to speak English.)

We often use never to form negatives:

Example:
My English never used to be very good.

We usually put adverbs before used to:

Example:
I always used to struggle with the local accents.

get used to, be used to + noun/gerund

Meaning

The structures get used to and be used to indicate familiarity with something.

Get used to signals that something is in the process of going from difficult/new to easy/familiar.

Example:
I am even getting used to having milk in my tea!
Drinking tea with milk is becoming more normal for me.

Be used to indicates that this process is completed; the speaker is fully accustomed and familiar with the new thing or habit.

Example:
I’m used to speaking English every day.
This is normal for me.

Form

Unlike used to + infinitive, get used to and be used to can be conjugated in any tense.

Examples:
I am even getting used to having milk in my tea! (present progressive)
You will get used to it. (future)
I got used to speaking English fairly quickly. (past simple)

These two structures can be followed by a noun, pronoun or gerund (the -ing form of the verb).

Examples:
I’m even getting used to having milk in my tea. (gerund)
You get used to it. (pronoun)
I am used to the British lifestyle. (noun)