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

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Submitted by mcambindo22 on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 17:16

Interesting grammar rules, I only knew how to use 'used to' but now I realise the importance regarding use 'get used to' and 'be used to' so that these new concepts allow to show more knowledge about English so native speaker could feel that and may talk to you natural.
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Submitted by Westnur on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 20:57

Dear team, I'm new hear and today is my first day. So, my question is, is it possible to say " I do used to play football in the morning" for some habitual action. Thanks
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 24/08/2020 - 03:39

In reply to by Westnur


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mehransam05 on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 21:51

Excuse me Kirk, It was "way" not "key" in: "The only way to gain knowledge is to be aware of everything around you" (504 words, lesson 17) But I think it is not different, both of them "way" and "key" are nouns. Thanks.

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.
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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