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

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Hello again Amy,

The word 'as' replaces the subject in this case. This is somewhat unusual grammar, though it does occur with a few other phrases similar to 'as is/was known' such as 'as was agreed' and 'as was expected'. In these cases, the verb is passive and 'as' acts as a kind of subject, though I'm not sure it's really proper to call it the subject.

When the verb isn't passive, the grammar is easier to make sense: 'as you know', 'as we agreed', 'as custom dictates', etc.

I hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Dante2023 on Wed, 22/02/2023 - 13:57


to be honest, this's a little bit confusing, I find it hard to understand the difference between "being familiar with something" (or not) and "the process of being familiar with something (or not)..
for example I say : "Even though I loved my old job, I couldn't used to the long hours."
example 2 : "Even though I loved my old job, I couldn't get used to the long hours."...so what is the difference between these two sentences? thanks.

Hi Dante2023,

The first example is not a correct sentence. You can't say 'couldn't used to'.

The two forms here are 'be used to' and 'get used to'.


We say 'be used to' to describe a state. For example:

I am used to my job > the job is normal for me and nothing new; it is familiar.


We say 'get used to' to describe the process of familiarisation. For example:

It took me a year to get used to this job > at first it was strange and it only became familiar later 


You can use the two together:

It took me a long time to get used to the situation, but I am used to it now.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the feedback,
so as I understand "the process of being familiar with something" -refers to- or explains the time or the duration needed to "get used to something"..guide me if I'm wrong, Thanks.

Hi Dante2023,

Yes, that's correct. It's similar to getting angry (the process) and being angry (the state).



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Dante

The difference between the two sentences lies in the way they express the idea of becoming accustomed to something.

The first sentence, "Even though I loved my old job, I couldn't used to the long hours," is grammatically incorrect. The correct version of this sentence would be "Even though I loved my old job, I couldn't get used to the long hours." The verb "get" is necessary to form the phrasal verb "get used to," which means to become familiar with or accustomed to something.

The second sentence, "Even though I loved my old job, I couldn't get used to the long hours," expresses the idea that the process of becoming accustomed to the long hours was difficult for the speaker. The focus is on the process of getting used to the long hours, rather than on the state of being used to them.

In general, "getting used to something" emphasizes the process of becoming accustomed to something, while "being used to something" emphasizes the state of being familiar with or accustomed to something.

Submitted by diego_RHB on Sat, 18/02/2023 - 15:33


Hi friends.
why in this sentences "Even though I loved my old job, I _____ the long hours." i cannot use "couldn't be used to" instead of "couldn't get used to"?

Hello diego_RHB,

Get used to describes the process of becoming familiar with something (the thing no longer being strange). In your context this is exactly what is happening (or not happening): the speaker is not used to something and is unable to change this.

Couldn't be... here would express speculation and have the sense of 'maybe this is the situation'. Obviously, we don't speculate in this way about ourselves as we know the situation.


You can read more about modal verbs used for deduction in the past and present here:





The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by muslumts61 on Sat, 03/12/2022 - 13:26


Hi my dear teacher(s)! i read this page and tried to make some sentences.
are these true, my dear teacher?

in the first days of me in this city i used to go to gym but nowadays i am not going anymore.

i feel confused and a little bit embarassed but i was used to this city swiftly.

the times i am getting used to here is a nice remember for me now.

Hello muslumts61,

I'm afraid we don't correct our users' texts, but I can give you a little feedback.

In the first, you used 'used to go' correctly -- well done.

In the second, I would probably say 'I got used to this city quickly'. If you talk about it happening quickly, you seem to be talking about the process.

In the third, maybe you should use the past continuous tense to talk about the past: 'The time when I was getting used to this place is a nice memory for me now'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team