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 (152 votes)
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Hello gaby02,

Both are possible here and I don't think there's a huge difference in meaning in this case. More generally, the -ing form suggests an action in progress or continued, while the simple form suggests a completed action. For example:

1. He's used to having people check his work.

2. He's used to having people checking his work.

In sentence 1 the suggestion is he works and then it's checked. In sentence 2 the implication is that he works and while he is working someone is checking his work.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Fri, 24/11/2023 - 01:06


Hello, dear teachers and team!

Could you please help me with the following:

Can I say "to get somebody used to something", like "I'm getting my children used to eating healthily". Would it be correct?

I'm very very grateful for your immense contribution to my knowledge, and, therefore, confidence, and thank you very much indeed for the answer to this post!

Hello howtosay_,

Yes, that is correct. Good work and good luck with that project -- it sure can be a challenge sometimes!

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Subway on Sun, 15/10/2023 - 14:42


Hello everyone!
I couldn't do this question. Can you help me?

We _____ much positive feedback about our old product, but the new formula is really successful.
A didn't use to get
B weren't used to get
C didn't use to getting

Hello Subway,

A is the correct answer. It's the 'used to' + infinitive form that speaks about a past situation that is no longer true. The idea is that our new product is successful (we can imagine that it gets positive feedback), but in the past it did not get positive feedback: 'it didn't use to get much positive feedback'.

Both B and C are grammatically incorrect. The correct form of B would be 'weren't used to getting'. In this case, 'be used to' would mean 'be familiar with' or 'be accustomed to', which doesn't make as much sense as A.

In C 'didn't use' needs to be followed by an infinitive, not an '-ing- form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 29/09/2023 - 18:58


Hello. Could you please tell me whether the following sentence is correct or not? Why?
- I am used to walking to work every morning; it is one of my good habits.
Thank you.

Submitted by howtosay_ on Fri, 22/09/2023 - 01:21


Hello, dear teachers and team!

Could you please help me by saying which option is correct:

1. I am used not to be dependent on somebody.

2, I am not used to be dependent on somebody.

3. I am used to not having conflicts at work.

4. I am not used to having conflicts at work.

Finding your website has been a real treasure. Thank you so much for your consistent help and I'm grateful for the answer to this post beforehand!!!

Hi howtosay_,

We are always glad to hear what learners think of our website. Thanks for your kind comment!

Sentence 1 is not correct because of the position of "not". It should be as in sentence 2. Also in 1 and 2, change "be" to "being" because "to be (not) used to" should be followed by the -ing verb form (or otherwise a noun or pronoun): I am not used to being dependent on somebody.

Sentences 3 and 4 are both correct. They can both mean that the person doesn't have conflicts at work, and this is the usual situation. But alternatively, 4 may suggest that the person does actually have conflicts at work, but feels unaccustomed to it. It's a small difference, and probably unimportant.


LearnEnglish team