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 (164 votes)

Submitted by Sayinsu on Sat, 16/07/2022 - 14:57


I'm getting used to the working culture of my current company. It was fearsome before three years.

Submitted by yahys on Thu, 07/07/2022 - 13:28


Hi i had a question "i am getting used to [sleeping] there" is sleeping a gerund or a verb(1st form+ing)

Hello yahys,

In this case, 'sleeping' is a gerund. This is because 'to' is a preposition, and prepositions are always followed by noun phrases. A gerund is the nominal ('noun') form of a verb.

The same is true in a phrase like 'He's looking forward to seeing you'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bridge23d on Thu, 09/06/2022 - 11:02


I have a question about this:

Hi Westnur, Welcome! We hope you enjoy your English practice here :) If you mean a habitual action in the past (i.e. you don't do it any more), it should be I used to play football in the morning. But if you still play football, you can't use used to. It should be I play football in the morning (present simple). You can add an adverb like usually or regularly to emphasise the habitual meaning. Does that make sense? Best wishes, Jonathan The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, In reference to above can't we use-I am used to playing football in the morning. Please correct me.

Hello bridge23d,

It's important to distinguish between two different uses of the words used to that are easily confused. These are explained above, but briefly again they are:

1. used to + verb (to speak about a past habitual action that is no longer true)

2. to be used to + noun phrase OR + verb in the -ing form (to speak about something you are accustomed to)

So if you say 'I'm used to playing football in the morning' (2), it's not really talking about a habit. It means it's something normal for you. I can see how that could imply that it's talking about a habitual action (because we are probably accustomed to most of the things we do habitually), but that's a meaning that we add and is not what the grammar expresses.

Many students of mine say 'I'm used to studying English every day' (an action I'm accustomed to) when what they really mean is 'Normally I study English every day' (a habitual action).

Remember that used to + verb always speaks about something that is not true right now. 'I used to study English every day' speaks about the past and it means I don't study English every day in the present.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by gerlsdao on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 17:50



Can you please explain what is wrong with this:
I have always been admiring women scientists.


Hi gerisdao,

Verbs expressing emotions and feelings are generally not used with continuous aspect, so the correct form would be 'I have always admired...'.

Similar verbs include like, love, hate, desire, approve etc.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by BillJ on Mon, 17/01/2022 - 15:11


Strictly speaking, the "to" found in expressions such as "I used [to smoke]", is not part of the verb "use", but a marker introducing the infinitival complement clause, as shown in brackets.

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 29/10/2021 - 16:58


Hello team. Could you please tell me if the following sentence is correct or not? Why? What is the meaning of it?
- My brother often has stomach troubles as he is used to eating fast food.
Thank you.