Used to, use to, be used to, get used to & would


Firstly, let’s focus on the pronunciation because I know this is very confusing for many students. Because, when we say used on its own, we use the Z sound and the D sound, used. But to say used to is quite a mouthful, so you will hear speakers of English saying use to, use to.

That means that both used to and use to are pronounced in the same way in normal conversation, used to, use to. This makes it slightly easier for you in spoken English, but in written English, you do have to be careful. Let’s focus on used to. We use used to to talk about past habits that we don’t do in the present, or past states that are no longer true. Used to with the base form of a verb, also called the bare infinitive, but I’m going to call it the base verb here.

I used to do yoga, but now I don’t have time. I used to go to a language school, but I finished the course. I used to live in Seville, but now I live in England. I used to be a waitress, but now I’m a teacher. That’s an example of a state. That’s not talking about a habit, something like, I used to have short hair. That wasn’t a habit, that was a state.

That’s using used with the D at the end, but you will see that people use use with no D at the end. This is a point of confusion for many of my students. In questions and negatives, we use use instead. I didn’t use to like avocados, but now I love them. Did you use to work at the corner shop? He didn’t use to care about his appearance, but now he takes pride in it. Did they use to go to the same school as us?

It’s worth noting that when you use never, you do use used with the D. He didn’t use to care about his appearance. He never used to care about his appearance. We will do lots of testing of this in the quiz at the end, but now it’s time to talk about would. When somebody is telling a story about the past, you might hear them use would, plus base verb. When I lived in Seville, we would eat lunch at 4:00 PM. When I was studying Spanish, I would watch Spanish TV shows.

Now, you might think, “Huh, so it’s the same as use to.” Not exactly. We can’t use would plus base verb to talk about past states, only past habits. An example, I would have short hair, does not mean the same thing as, I used to have short hair. Or, I would live in Seville, does not mean the same thing as, I used to live in Seville. So remember, would plus base verb is only appropriate for past habits or repeated actions.

Let’s move on to to be used to. When we want to talk about things that we are accustomed to or things that feel normal to us, we use to be, plus used to, plus verb-ing. An example, I’m used to running in cold weather, so I don’t mind it. I’m accustomed to running in cold weather. It feels normal to me to run in cold weather. Another example, my fiance Will is used to working hard, so when we go on holiday, he becomes restless. Working hard is normal to him, it is what he is accustomed to.

We can also use to be used to, plus noun or pronoun. I live in the countryside, so I am used to mud. For example, wet soil. He is very handsome, so he is used to compliments. He is accustomed to compliments. My sister is annoying, but I am used to her. Remember that here the verb to be can be put into any tense. When I started waitressing, I wasn’t used to carrying trays of drinks. True story, I dropped so many trays of drinks. Soon I will be used to taking public transport, so it won’t be so intimidating.

Finally, we have to get used to, different to to be used to. Here you can think of to get as to become, to become used to. You form it in the same way as to be used to. We use to get used to, plus verb-ing. Or to get used to, plus noun or pronoun. We use it to talk about a change in what we are accustomed to. Again, this can be used in any tense. At first I didn’t like stretching after running, but I got used to it.

Or, I am getting used to public speaking. I am becoming accustomed to public speaking. Or, I hope I will get used to driving in London soon. True story, I have been driving for four years and I still am not used to driving in London. I need to do it more to become more accustomed to it.