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Focus on the Verb - 'Use'

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Used to Do

'Used to do something' expresses something that we often did in the past, but don't do anymore. It is often used in the positive form to speak about repeated actions - something that was a habit, or a way of life - in the past. Generally, we use the form to contrast past habits with present situations.

Examples:

I used to go jogging three times a week when I lived in Italy. Now, I'm too busy and can only jog once a week.
Janice used to live in New York, but moved to Seattle last year.
I used to enjoy having an espresso in the bar every morning when I lived in Italy. (I don't live in Italy any more!)

Be careful: Use the infinitive form in questions or negative sentences:

Did you use to take the bus to work when you lived there? They didn't use to ask so many questions!

Would Do

'Would do' something refers to past actions and habits as well. Remember that 'would' is also used in a conditional sense, (for example, I would love to go to the party if I were invited.) It's a good idea to not use 'would' in questions and negative sentences, as its meaning can easily be misunderstood in a conditional sense.

Examples:

We'd spend a lot of money on projects that didn't help the company. = It used to be normal to spend money on these projects, but now it isn't.

They would ask a lot of crazy questions that didn't seem to make any sense. = In the past, they asked questions that didn't relate to the situation.

Difference Between 'Used to' and 'Would'

'Used to' can refer to permanent situations as well as habitual actions.

Example:

I used to be able to get up at nine o'clock every morning. = It was possible for me to do this in my past situation.

'Would' only refers to actions, but not situations.

Example:

He'd get up early every morning.

Not:

He'd be able to get a good job in New York.

Other Uses of 'Use To'

'Used to' goes together with a number of verbs to express how a person feels about a current status or habit.

Become Used To / Get Used To

Use these forms to express that a person is in the process of making something 'normal'. They are often used with the present continuous form.

Examples:

He's becoming used to living in San Francisco
Mary's slowly getting used to her new job.
We're not getting used to the weather here in Seattle. We want to go home!

Note:

When used with the present perfect, these two forms can imply that something that was difficult in the past has become normal.

Examples:

They've become used to working overtime.
She's got used to living alone.

To Be Used To

This form indicates that a situation has become normal for a person.

Examples:

Sally is used to spending hours in front of the computer every day.
I'm used to eating out for lunch.

To Become Accustomed To / To Get Accustomed To

These two forms mean the same as 'become / get used to'. However, these forms are more formal.

Examples:

Jack has become accustomed to changing jobs once every few years.
The children are getting accustomed to their new school.

To Be Accustomed To

'Be accustomed to' means the same as 'be used to'.

Examples:

He's accustomed to commuting to work every day.
My boss is accustomed to employees not liking his decisions.

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