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 (112 votes)
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Hello mehransam05,

I'm afraid it's not so simple! 'way' is one of a group of nouns that can be followed by an infinitive, so 'the only way to gain knowledge' is the correct form in this case. If you follow the link to the dictionary entry, you can see a heading for 'way to do something', which shows you how the word can be used in this way.

'key', in contrast, can be followed by the preposition 'to' (which can be followed by an -ing form), so 'the only key to gaining knowledge' is the correct form in this case. It's more difficult to find this in the dictionary entry I linked to, but if you got down to the 'key2 adjective' entry, you can see it in one of the example sentences.

As you can see, words can be used in many different ways, and for the most part you just have to learn these different ways. When you read or listen, it's a good idea to make note of how you see or hear words being used -- but don't make note of only individual words, make note of whole phrases, and then revise these phrases and try to use them in your speaking and writing.

When you're writing, a dictionary is also an invaluable tool, as I hope the links above have shown you.

Good luck!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mehransam05 on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 22:34

Dear team, Can U help me with this? What is the difference between: 1) solidarity is the key to defeating Coronavirus And 2) solidarity is the key to defeat Coronavirus. Where to + verb And Where to + ing Thanks in advance.
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 14:26

In reply to by mehransam05


Hello mehransam05,

1 is correct and 2 is not. 'to defeat' would be correct after a verb like 'want' or 'plan', but not after the noun 'key'.

'to' is a tricky word, because it has so many uses and meanings. Here it is a preposition. When a verb form follows a preposition, it always goes in the '-ing' form, which is why 'defeating' is correct here.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team


Thanks Kirk, But how should I know where "to" comes from a proposition and where as an infinitive and, In the sentence below: "The only key to gain knowledge is to be aware of everything around you" (504 words, lesson 17) In this sentence "key" is a noun but "to gain" comes instead of "to gaining" What's the difference between this and my first question "solidarity is the key to defeating Coronavirus" "Key" is the same. Kind regards.

Hello again mehransam05,

I think my reply above has answered these questions, but if I have missed something, please feel free to ask again.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dastenova Firuza on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 10:45

It was a confusing test. I got into trouble choosing options.

Submitted by Lyvo on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 04:11

Hi I have an important question I'd like to get answered. I took an exam a few days ago and it had the following question: I am used to teaching my students through social media. The one that has a similar meaning to the one above is: A) It had been normal for me to teach my students through social media. B) It was normal for me to teaching my students through social media. C) It is normal for me now to teach my students through social media. D) It isn't normal for me now to teach my students through social media. The correct answer is "C" I put "A" and the reason I did was because in sentence "c" you have the word NOW which translates the sentence to she she didn't teach her students through social media before but she does now which is not the meaning of the original sentence. Option "A" is I had been used to... they used the past perfect tense, given that be used to can be used to talk about persent, past or future though future in least common I believe that "A" is the correct answer option "c" would be correct if it didn't have the word now. Thoughts?

Hi Lyvo,

When we say we are used to something we mean that it is no longer strange or new for us. In other words, there is an implication that at some point in the past it was strange or new.


Sentence C is the correct answer because it contains this sense of change. It is normal for me now implies that it wasn't normal at some point but has become so.


Sentence A has the opposite meaning. It suggests that before a point in the past (which is not given) the activity was normal, but then became strange. For example, you might continue like this:

It had been normal for me to teach my students through social media, but when we changed to the new platform it was very hard for me to adapt.



The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Karan Narang on Wed, 01/07/2020 - 04:04

I am used to practicing english every day even though I can't doing well but I will get used to it soon.

Submitted by LOLA Jalilova on Fri, 05/06/2020 - 13:38

good grammar test