Used to / get used to / be used to

This is a lesson about how to use “used to”, “get used to” and “be used to”. The associated exercises are here. The conversation questions are here. This lesson is part of a full B2 level English course.

People used to believe that the Earth was flat. People used to believe that the sun revolved around the Earth.

Now we are used to picturing the sun as the centre of our solar system with everything revolving around it.

One of humanity’s biggest advantages is our adaptability, whatever changes the environment throws at us, we can get used to living in some quite challenging circumstances!

Used to

“Used to” describes habitual past states or actions that contrast with the present.

It is followed by an infinitive without to.

[subject] used to [infinitive verb without “to”]

Examples

I used to live in England, now I live in Spain.

I used to have long hair, now I am bald.

I didn’t use to read the news when I was young, but I read it every day now that I’m an adult.1

Did you use to watch cartoons?

  1. Note that in negative and question forms, the verb “used to” is left in the bare infinitive (use to), without the “d” at the end.

Would as a Synonym of Used to

We can use would as a synonym of used to.

When I was young I would play football in the street.

We CAN’T use would as a synonym of used to for states / non-action verbs!

When I was young I would watch cartoons. GOOD

When I was young I would have long hair. WRONG

Get used to

“Get used to” describes a process of becoming accustomed.

We use get used to + gerund.

[subject] [get] used to [ ______ing]

Examples

When I came to Spain, it took me a long time to get used to eating so late.

If you go to live in England you’ll have to get used to driving on the left.

He is getting used to working a new timetable.

Be used to.

This is the end result of becoming accustomed. 

It is formed with “to be” + “used to” + gerund.

[subject] [to be] used to [ _____ing]

If I say 

I am used to taking the metro to work

It means that this is normal for me now, I am accustomed to it. Or in negative

I’m not used to working with this software, it’s different to the systems I’ve used before.

 I am not used to sleeping in complete darkness.

Remember!

Used to + infinitive (without to) = a habitual past action or state.

Get used to + ____ing = A process of accustomization.

Be used to + _____ing = A state of being accustomed.

Conversation Questions with “Used To”

Use these questions to practise using these forms in context. try to repeat the the “used to” phrases as much as possible to help you to assimilate and remember these forms.

  1. What games did you used to play with your friends when you were young?
  2. What did you used to watch on TV when you were young?
  3. What would be difficult to get used to if you went to live in England?
  4. What could you never get used to?
  5. What are you used to doing now that would surprise your younger self?
  6. Are you used to buying things on the internet?
  7. Are you used to doing video conferencing?
  8. Did you used to look different in any way?
  9. Is there any food that you used to hate when you were younger?
  10. What subjects did you use to enjoy at school?
  11. What subjects didn’t you use to like at school?

Exercises

Check your comprehension with the exercises below.