used to past habits 3

Used To, three

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)

Work, Business, Economy

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?


25. What did the leader of your country do before he or she entered politics?

26. What were the geographical boundaries of your country in ancient times?

27. Describe what the government did fifty or sixty years ago.

Case Studies

28. Milena has lived in a small farming village all her life. Now she has graduated from high school, and moved to the capital city for university. What does she tell her classmates?

29. Mr. Morris was a pop singer in the early 1980’s. Today he is a software expert. What does he tell the music video presenter?

30. Aurora started off as a secretary in a large company. Over the years she has advanced, and is now a manager with her own big office and staff.

31. Barbara used to live and work in a big city. Then she took up copywriting. After establishing herself, she moved to a cottage in the countryside. What does she write in her blog?

32. When Tony was 19, he and some friends robbed some stores and assaulted a shop assistant. They were caught, arrested, tried and sentenced to prison. While in jail he reformed. After his release he became a minister and social worker, helping troubled youths. What does he tell them?

33. Wayne’s mother is a neurosurgeon and his father is vice-president of a bank. After university, he moved out and found work in a bookshop. What does he tell Linda and Sharon, his coworkers?

34. Jasmine was born and raised in Iran. At the age of 18, she emigrated to Canada. What does she share in her university discussion class?

35. Bob was in the British Navy. After retiring, he and his wife moved to Spain. What does he share with his neighbors and friends?

36. Douglas and Linda both worked in sales for a large, multinational corporation. But they quit their jobs and started a new career painting, woodworking and making pottery. What do they write on Facebook?


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