Use To and Used To

One mistake we’ve seen crop up recently is the difference between “use to” and “used to”.  They’re a little tricky at times – it seems like there’s a tense change in there, and sometimes they’re used as verbs and other times as adjectives.  It’s actually not very hard to remember, however, so we figured we’d give a quick refresher on which is which.

When you’re using it as an adjective, you want to use to be + used to.  This means you’ve become accustomed to something – you don’t mind it, or you can deal with it.  You can be used to having the radio on when you’re writing, or not used to driving in the snow.  You wouldn’t ever use use to in this context; it’s strictly incorrect.

When you’re using it as a verb, you’re saying that something once happened, and doesn’t happen anymore.  You want to use use to + verb here, and this is a regular verb, following all the rules of tense – that means, since you’re talking about something that happened in the past, you’re going to use used to most of the time here – you used to go to elementary school and you used to go jogging.  You don’t do any of those things any more, but you used to.

So when the heck do you use “use to”?  Only when the basic form of the verb is required.  In this context, that usually occurs when you have another past tense word in your sentence – a did or a didn’t.  It also usually occurs when you’re asking a question.  If I wanted to know if you used to ride a bike, I would ask you “did you use to ride a bike?”  I could also say “you didn’t use to do all your homework at once”.

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