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English Grammar: How to Use “Used To”

Hi there!

How many times have you heard people say “I didn’t used to do it earlier”?

Till recently, I could not spot what was wrong with this sentence, but I knew something was wrong; it just did not sound right. So, I checked the rules and decided to clear it for all learners out there.

Let’s begin by understanding what “used to” is used for.

Used To

When we talk about habits or our daily routine, we use simple present tense.

For example:

  • I bite my nails.
  • Sheila goes for a walk every morning.
  • I take the bus to school.

But what if we want to talk about our habits or routine in the past?

In this case, we use used to.

Here’s a guide on how to use it:

Used to is a modal verb which is used before another verb. It is a helping verb and cannot be used alone.

Used to + Verb

I used to dance.

Pratham used to go for jogging.

Used to is used to talk about the past ONLY. The things which we did in the past and no longer do can be described using used to.

Do not use it to talk about the present.

Incorrect: Now I used to swim.

Correct: I used to swim when I was younger.

Used to highlights the difference between the past and the present. It  is used to talk about something you did in the past and do not do now i.e. in the present.

Also, keep in mind that past here means an earlier time period and not  the recent past. So, we cannot say the following:

Yesterday, I used to go swimming.

We can say,

Yesterday, I went swimming.

OR

I used to go for swimming.

When to use “Used to”

  1. To talk about something you did in the past

It describes something you did for months or years in the past, but DO NOT do  now.

  • I used to play carom when I was young.

(I do not play carom now)

  • I used to be a fussy child.

(I am not a fussy child now)

  1. To talk about something that happened in the past regularly.

It describes things that happened regularly earlier but do not happen now.

We used to go to the park every day.

There used to be a sale every Friday.

  1. To talk about something that was true in the past.

It highlights the difference between the past and the present.

  • There used to be tea stall here.

(It is no longer here) 

  • Jenny used to work in a bank back then.

(She does not work in a bank now)

To form a question using used to, remove the D at the end and simply say use to.

Did you use to + verb

Did you use to play tennis?

Didn’t you use to live by that shop? 

Negative form

  • Did not use to

The negative form does not have a D at the end of use.

I did not use to be fat then.

Shreya did not use to smoke in college.

  • Never used to

I never used to believe her stories.

She never used to be on time.

Although the rule is to say didn’t use to when forming the negative, people say didn’t used to all the time. But now that you know the correct form, be wise and do not make a mistake again!

Also, here’s a link to my last blog: The Best Technique to Learn English and How to Achieve it

 

 

 

 

 

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