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 (140 votes)
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Hello AndreaBuzz,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct, though I would recommend 'washing machine' instead of 'wash machine'.

Without knowing the situation these sentences are used in or the intentions of the speaker, it's just not possible to say exactly what they mean. Your interpretations might be true, but there are many other possibilities that could be equally true. The grammar itself doesn't really tell us enough by itself.

'be used to' speaks about a state and 'get used to' talks about the process that should result in a state. When you have sentences like these two, where the second one is present perfect, then they essentially mean the same thing. The first one talks about my state now -- not being used to it -- and the second one talks about how I haven't arrived to that state yet -- not being used to it -- so there's very little difference.

I hope that helps. If you had a specific context in mind, feel free to let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear prof.
actually, I invented both the sentences in order to exercises on this topics.
Therefore, my goal was to elaborate two senteces that spokes of the same thing but with an acceptation that mirrored the use of "be used to" and "get used to" that is STATE and PROCESS. For the second one specifically, my intention was, highlight how much was long the learning process. If I understand correctly from your explanation I reached my goal, don't it?
Thanks a lot for your explanation.

Hello again AndreaBuzz,

Yes, 'I haven't got used to it' would be the best form to use to express some impatience with the process. It can communicate that idea that you want to be used to it, but haven't been able to achieve that yet. Well done!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Elena Shark on Fri, 11/11/2022 - 09:41

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Hi! Would you please tell me if these sentences sound naturally?
1. I used to be afraid of my sister.
2. I didn't use to be shy.
3. He didn't use to be taller than me.
4. Did you use to be young?
All of them have 'to be' and it's confusing me. So, if it's possible, please tell me the sentences that sound good and have a similar meaning.
Thank you a lot! Have a good day!

Hi Elena Shark,

All four sentences are grammatically correct :) I would say that sentences 1, 2 and 3 sound good. Sentence 4 seems a bit unusual to me because naturally, everybody is younger in the past than in the present. So I'm not sure what the intended meaning of question 4 is. 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IbraJaya on Wed, 05/10/2022 - 03:58

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I’d like to ask about the sentence “When we were at university, we used to have to write an essay a week”. Can we use “were used to having” and “got used to having” instead of "used to"? I think the sentence can also indicates “being accustomed to have to write an essay”

Hello IbraJaya,

Yes, you could say both of those and they would indicate the meaning that you explain.

If you say 'we used to have to write', it doesn't really speak about being accustomed to doing something; it just refers to something you had to do from time to time in the past that you no longer have to do now.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Liubov1602 on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 14:08

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Hello! Could you please explain to me the difference in meaning between "to get used to" and "got used to"? For example, "I got used to my life in this city" and "I get used to my work". The meaning is the same, right? But is it common to use past tenses of "get used to"? Can I say "He didn't like his job but he got used to it"? Or I should say "He didn't like his job but he is used to it'?Are there any cases whe we use Peresent Perfect forms of "get used to"?

Hi Liubov1602,

Sure, I'll try to explain.

  • "I got used to my life in this city" and "I get used to my work" - These sentences mean different things. The first one shows a single completed action in the past. The second one shows your general ability at any time, including past as well as present. (To talk about your adaptation to your current job in particular, you could say "I'm getting used to it" if your adaptation is not yet complete, or "I've got used to it" if it is already complete.)
  • Yes, it's common to use the past tense (i.e., I got used to ...), if you are talking about the past. Your sentence "He didn't like his job but he got used to it" is a good example.
  • "He didn't like his job but he is used to it" - yes, you can say this too, and the meaning is similar. The small difference is that "he got used to it" shows a completed past action. "He is used to it" shows a present state (not an action). It may of course be the result of the completed past action.
  • Yes, we can use the present perfect too, with its usual meanings (see the Present Perfect page for more explanation). For example, a recent action, or a past action that is relevant to the current topic of conversation. 

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nodiroshi on Tue, 20/09/2022 - 16:27

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Hello, yesterday I looked for different examples to understand better the difference between "be used to" and "get used to".
I saw couple of examples with "get used to" and my question is - Is it possible and correct to use in these sentences "be used to" instead of "get used to"?

1. How long did it take you to get used to working?
Can I say: "How long did it take you to BE USED TO working?"?

2. David is extremely stressed. He hasn't got used to working so hard.
Can I say: "David is extremely stressed. He hasn't BEEN USED TO working so hard"?

3. Sarah thought she would never get used to New York
Can I say: "Sarah thought she would never BE USED to New York"?

4. I don't think I will ever get used to waking up early
Can I say: "I don't think I will ever BE USED TO waking up early"?

I know that "get used to" is used to talk about process of getting accustomed to sth, but since all examples are about actions which started or happened in the past that means process is complete, isn't it? That's why I'm confused and would like you to help me If you could