used to

Used To, one

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)

Childhood, Youth

1. I used to watch a lot of cartoons as a child. True or false? What were your favorite TV programs? What programs did you use to watch?

2. What sort of activities did you (use to) do as a youngster? Are there any sports, hobbies, recreational or other activities that you and your friend did that they no longer participate in?

3. When I was a kid, I would snack on chocolate, chips, crisps, biscuits and rusks; but now I eat lots of kale, parsley, dill, celery, raw egg yolks, butter, apples and oranges, nuts and seeds. Yes or no?

4. You’ve attended primary school, secondary school and university. Now you are working at your first job. What do you and your coworker joke about?


Grandpa and Grandma

5. Describe what your parents or grandparents did in class and school.

6. What did they use to do after school?

7. Did people attend a church, mosque or temple more often in the past?

8. How did people travel in the past? Did people travel as much as they do now? Where did they usually travel to?

9. Kathy and Douglas were single, but then they got married, and have now set up home and have two children. What do they tell them? What do they tell their grandchildren?


Daily Living

10. How did people do their shopping? Where did they go? Were there peddlers or delivery services?

11. Did people eat differently in the past? If so, what did people use to eat? What did they eat more of or less of?

12. A doctor’s medical check up showed that Charlie was unfit. A year late, the same tests showed that he was in good shape. What does he tell his buddies?



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