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 (161 votes)
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So good questions love it so much got everything right so fun! really recomennd so much fun for learning! so good

Submitted by Amani Sweidan on Sun, 27/11/2022 - 10:50


Hi, a question please.

Is it correct to say

I used to have his number before


is it better to say

I was having his number before

Thank you!

Hello Amani,

'I was having his number before' is not correct. The best version of these two sentences is 'I used to have his number'. The word 'before' is redundant when you use 'used to' + verb.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AndreaBuzz on Wed, 16/11/2022 - 11:48


Dear Professors,
I have a question about the use of "Be used to " and Get used to".
Aboveall, I'd like to know if the following expressions are correct:
1. I am not used to using this new wash machine yet.
2. I have not got used to using this new wash machine yet.
If yes, I would use them with the following interprations.
For the first one, the focus is on the fact that "The wash machine is not easy to use ". For the second one, instead, the focus is on long learning process.
is It orrect or they are exposed to another interprations?

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,
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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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


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. 


The LearnEnglish Team