used to past habits 2

Used To, two

Past Actions and Habits


Used to and Be Used to

The phrase used to has two different meanings.

The first acts as a verb. It expresses past habits and actions that we no longer do, as in “My grandmother used to use a typewriter at work.” (The modal would, among other things, describes repeated past actions: “Our son would write a letter to Santa every Christmas.”).

Used to also functions as an adjective, and means to be accustomed to a certain routine, condition, environment, situation or person: “Mrs. Rosado is now used to taking the subway (underground).”

Structure of Used to and Would, Positive

(+) Subject + used to + verb-1 (base form).
(+) Subject + would + verb-1.

• I used to watch Scooby-Doo, Star Trek, and Batman when I was a kid.
• My friends and I would visit haunted houses.
• Wendy’s grandmother would bake blueberry and raspberry pies for all the kids.

• Bart used to party all the time—until he got married.
• Ledicie used to work in IT before transferring to sales.
• My great-grandfather would carve wooden figures by the fireplace.

Structure of Used to and Would, Negative

Subject + didn’t (never) use to + verb-1.


• The owner of my company didn’t use to study when he was in *college and so he dropped out.
• Hans didn’t use to listen to chill-out music like he does now.
• We would never say those kinds of words.

*This term may be confusing. In the US, college is synonymous with university, especially a smaller, liberal arts or technical institution. In countries with a British or Spanish-based system, college can also mean a private, secondary school.

Yes-No Questions with Used to

Used to isn’t used very frequently in questions; we more often use the past simple.

Did + subject + use to + verb-1?

• Grandma, did you use to play hooky (truant) when you were young? —> Absolutely not! I always attended class.
• Did you use to swim in the lake? —> Oh yeah! It was great fun!
• Did students use to party like this when you were in university? —> Are you kidding?!? It was more conservative in my time.

WH Questions with Used to

WH-Q word + did + subject + use to + verb-1?
Who/What + used to + verb-1?

• Why did your grandparents use to work all the time? —> They had to help support their families.
• In the past, who used to study English? —> Only language specialists.
• What kind of animals used to roam in this area? —> Rabbits, deer, bears, saber-tooth tigers, mastodons, T-rexes, brontosauruses.

Used to (Past Actions)

13. Have you moved to another country or another part of your country? What did you used to do before you moved? Are you used to your new country or region?

14. What did people do before industrialization? How did they earn a living?

Leisure, Holiday, Celebrations

15. What did people (use to) do in the 1950’s for recreation?

16. What did people use to do during the weekends and holidays? Do they still engage in these activities?

17. What did people use to do in their summer vacations? Where did they go?

18. Did more people use to read more books, magazines and newspapers? Were libraries more popular?

19. How did people celebrate special occasions in the past? For example Christmas, New Years, Birthdays? Was there a more “joyous, festive atmosphere”?

20. Weddings used to be more common and popular, and everyone attended them. True or false?

Work, Business, Economy

21. Were there different kinds of businesses or companies in the past? How did they differ from those of today?

22. What sorts of jobs did people have in your parents’, grandparents’ or great grandparents’ generation? What do they do now?

23. Do you personally know of anyone who came from a poor or working-class background, and is now “successful and prosperous”? Describe their life and their accomplishments.

24. Reginald studied engineering and worked as an engineer. Later he founded a software company that made millions of dollars in profit. Next the economy went sour, sales plummeted, business went bad and the company went under (bankrupt). Now he’s broke. What does he tell Sandra in a club?



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