Different uses of 'used to'

Different uses of 'used to'

Do you know the difference between I used to drive on the left and I'm used to driving on the left? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how used to, get used to and be used to are used.

I used to want to be a lawyer but then I realised how hard they work!
How's Boston? Are you used to the cold weather yet?
No matter how many times I fly, I'll never get used to take-off and landing!

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

'used to' + infinitive and 'be' or 'get used to' + '-ing': Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Used to + infinitive and be/get used to + -ing look similar but they have very different uses.

used to

We use used to + infinitive to talk about a past situation that is no longer true. It tells us that there was a repeated action or state in the past which has now changed.

She used to be a long-distance runner when she was younger.
I didn't use to sleep very well, but then I started doing yoga and it really helps.
Did you use to come here as a child?

be used to and get used to

Be used to means 'be familiar with' or 'be accustomed to'.

She's used to the city now and doesn't get lost any more.
He wasn't used to walking so much and his legs hurt after the hike.
I'm a teacher so I'm used to speaking in public.

We use get used to to talk about the process of becoming familiar with something.  

I'm finding this new job hard but I'm sure I'll get used to it soon.
It took my mother years to get used to living in London after moving from Pakistan.
I'm getting used to the noise now. I found it really stressful when I first moved in.

Be used to and get used to are followed by a noun, pronoun or the -ing form of a verb, and can be used about the past, present or future.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

'used to' + infinitive and 'be' or 'get used to' + '-ing': Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4.1 (161 votes)
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/04/2020 - 07:35

In reply to by sherif aboul khair


Hi sherif aboul khair,

We use used to + -ing to talk about something which was strange or new and becomes normal after some time. It's not necessarily a habit but it could be.

I'm used to living in the city now. [a state]

After a week or so, I was used to wearing a mask whenever I went outside. [a habit]



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 15/03/2020 - 18:16

Hello. Is the following sentence correct? I think it is correct. - When I was on holiday, I used to go to the beach and swam in the sea every day. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

I would recommend changing this sentence because it's a little confusing. The main thing is that 'used to' is for speaking about actions that we carried out regularly in our normal lives but that we no longer do now. Holidays are not part of our regular life, and so it's confusing to use 'used to' to speak about them.

Even if you're speaking about a holiday you went on many times in the past, it would be confusing to say 'used to'. Instead, for example, you could say 'Whenever I went on holiday, I'd go to the beach to swim every day'. And if you're speaking about one specific time on holiday, you could say the same thing, or just use the past simple: 'When I was on holiday, I went to the beach to swim every day'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wcyam10 on Sun, 08/03/2020 - 04:06

Referring to the sentence below, why the answer is "couldn't get used to" instead of "couldn't be used to"? Even though I loved my old job, I _____ the long hours. Thank you.

Hello wycam10

The idea here is that I never became comfortable with the long hours -- in other words, the sentence focuses on the change from being uncomfortable to becoming comfortable, which is why it uses the verb 'get' and not 'be'. 'couldn't be used to' doesn't work here because it doesn't focus on the change in the way that 'get' does.

Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jambaangola on Mon, 27/01/2020 - 23:08

Hi can’t take the course. I have paid few minutes ago by card. I can’t access the course. What is happing?

Hello Jambaangola

I'm very sorry for the inconvenience. Are you still not able to access the course? You should have received an email and also seen a message after you paid telling you to click on 'My Coursework' at the top of the page.

Please also check the email address you registered with, as our team has contacted you there to solve this problem.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team