'used to' + infinitive and 'be' or 'get used to' + '-ing'

Do you know the difference between I used to drive on the left and I'm used to driving on the left?

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

Upper intermediate: B2

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

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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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mehransam05 on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 22:34

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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.

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,

Kirk

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dastenova Firuza on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 10:45

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It was a confusing test. I got into trouble choosing options.

Submitted by Lyvo on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 04:11

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Hi I have an important question I'd like to get answered. I took an exam a few days ago and it had the following question: I am used to teaching my students through social media. The one that has a similar meaning to the one above is: A) It had been normal for me to teach my students through social media. B) It was normal for me to teaching my students through social media. C) It is normal for me now to teach my students through social media. D) It isn't normal for me now to teach my students through social media. The correct answer is "C" I put "A" and the reason I did was because in sentence "c" you have the word NOW which translates the sentence to she she didn't teach her students through social media before but she does now which is not the meaning of the original sentence. Option "A" is I had been used to... they used the past perfect tense, given that be used to can be used to talk about persent, past or future though future in least common I believe that "A" is the correct answer option "c" would be correct if it didn't have the word now. Thoughts?

Hi Lyvo,

When we say we are used to something we mean that it is no longer strange or new for us. In other words, there is an implication that at some point in the past it was strange or new.

 

Sentence C is the correct answer because it contains this sense of change. It is normal for me now implies that it wasn't normal at some point but has become so.

 

Sentence A has the opposite meaning. It suggests that before a point in the past (which is not given) the activity was normal, but then became strange. For example, you might continue like this:

It had been normal for me to teach my students through social media, but when we changed to the new platform it was very hard for me to adapt.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Karan Narang on Wed, 01/07/2020 - 04:04

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I am used to practicing english every day even though I can't doing well but I will get used to it soon.

Submitted by LOLA Jalilova on Fri, 05/06/2020 - 13:38

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good grammar test

Submitted by salvio90 on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 22:36

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Guys I have a big question...can you help me please ?? “ when I went to Italy the weather was so hot ...after 2 days I still didn’t get used to it “ this sentence is it correct for you ? Because my friend told me that it’s wrong .. but I don’t understand why .... My friend said I should say “ after two days I still hadn’t got used to it or I still wasn’t used to it . Why ??? Still doesn’t match with the pass of “ didn’t get used to “ ???

Helo salvio90,

Your friend is correct :)

You have two time references here:

  1. when you went to Italy
  2. two days after arriving

The two verb constructions you are choosing between are be used to and get used to. One describes a state (be used to) and the other a process or a change (get used to).

The process would take place at some point before its result. In other words, when you talk about the process, you are looking back from a point later on (two days after arriving). To talk about events in the past when we are looking back from another point in the past we use a past perfect form, so hadn't got used to is the correct form.

The state is a description of a point in time when that state is either true or not. To describe this, we use a past simple form, so wasn't used to is correct.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Gelebishokarma on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 20:35

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always learn and read is the best. practice on this so much better. Thank you..

Submitted by Kumar on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 08:53

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"I am used to walk" or "I am used to walking", which one is correct?

Hello Kumar

The second is correct. 'to' is a preposition in this case.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ibra abdellaoui on Wed, 15/04/2020 - 12:40

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such helpful lesson thank you teachers

Submitted by fleur_y on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 13:26

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Thanks! I've got confidence about it.

Submitted by sherif aboul khair on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 18:05

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hi sir can we "was /were +used to +V-ing" to express habits. i was used to playing football.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/04/2020 - 07:35

In reply to by sherif aboul khair

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Hi sherif aboul khair,

We use used to + -ing to talk about something which was strange or new and becomes normal after some time. It's not necessarily a habit but it could be.

I'm used to living in the city now. [a state]

After a week or so, I was used to wearing a mask whenever I went outside. [a habit]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 15/03/2020 - 18:16

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Hello. Is the following sentence correct? I think it is correct. - When I was on holiday, I used to go to the beach and swam in the sea every day. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

I would recommend changing this sentence because it's a little confusing. The main thing is that 'used to' is for speaking about actions that we carried out regularly in our normal lives but that we no longer do now. Holidays are not part of our regular life, and so it's confusing to use 'used to' to speak about them.

Even if you're speaking about a holiday you went on many times in the past, it would be confusing to say 'used to'. Instead, for example, you could say 'Whenever I went on holiday, I'd go to the beach to swim every day'. And if you're speaking about one specific time on holiday, you could say the same thing, or just use the past simple: 'When I was on holiday, I went to the beach to swim every day'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wcyam10 on Sun, 08/03/2020 - 04:06

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Referring to the sentence below, why the answer is "couldn't get used to" instead of "couldn't be used to"? Even though I loved my old job, I _____ the long hours. Thank you.

Hello wycam10

The idea here is that I never became comfortable with the long hours -- in other words, the sentence focuses on the change from being uncomfortable to becoming comfortable, which is why it uses the verb 'get' and not 'be'. 'couldn't be used to' doesn't work here because it doesn't focus on the change in the way that 'get' does.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jambaangola on Mon, 27/01/2020 - 23:08

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Hi can’t take the course. I have paid few minutes ago by card. I can’t access the course. What is happing?

Hello Jambaangola

I'm very sorry for the inconvenience. Are you still not able to access the course? You should have received an email and also seen a message after you paid telling you to click on 'My Coursework' at the top of the page.

Please also check the email address you registered with, as our team has contacted you there to solve this problem.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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