Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Grammar Reference

‘Used to’

Meaning and use

We use the phrase used to when we want to talk about something we did regularly in the past, but we don’t do now. We also use it to talk about a past fact which is no longer true.

I used to work at a restaurant, but now I work at a library.

Shari didn’t use to take the bus to school, but now she does.

NOT: I used to eat some cake last Saturday night. (‘Saturday night’ was just one time, so it was not something done regularly.)

Used to can help us to compare activities in the past and now.

I used to work at a restaurant in the past, and now I work at a library.

When we say used to, we do not do something now.

I used to work at a restaurant. I quit that job, and then got a new job at a library.


The different forms of this phrase are used to or did/did not/didn’t + use to.

Used to is used in positive sentences. Use to is used in negative and question forms.


Alan used to wear his hat every day until he left it on the bus.
My aunt used to have a dog called Charlie.

Marsha didn’t use to enjoy skiing, but now she loves it.
I was surprised that you didn’t use to live in Shanghai.


Which road did you use to take to the village before they built the new one?

Did Martin use to have a flat in this building?

Negative question

Didn’t Paula use to study French?
William use to work at night?

Take note: adverbs

Used to already means that something happened regularly in the past. You don’t need to add adverbs most of the time. However, if you want to stress a time period, you can add an adverb.

John didn’t use to go shopping often, but now he does.
We used to
visit Mexico yearly, but lately, we’ve been going to Chile.

Spoken English

In conversation, used to is sometimes pronounced as /juːstə/. And you don’t say the ‘d’ and ‘t’ as separate sounds.

In fact, it is nearly impossible to hear the difference between used to and use to. Even if you can’t hear it, you can still pronounce this phrase correctly by saying /juːzd tə/ for both use to and used to. However, when you are writing, it is important to write the correct form. Remember, if there is a did or didn’t in the phrase, write use to. Otherwise, write used to.