Do you have trouble correctly using ‘use to’ or ‘used to’ in speech or writing? That’s okay! I’m a native speaker and mess up on this grammar concept every now and then. So don’t feel bad if you mix this one up, it’s a common mistake.
In this article, we will break down the usage of both phrases and provide examples for context.
“To” as an Infinitive
Used to and use to both have idiomatic meanings that we’ll cover in later sections.
First, let’s look at the proper use of to as an infinitive in a sentence. In this instance, used to or use to are a part of a larger verb phrase and to is the infinitive of the second verb. Look at the examples below:
Using use to or used to will depend on the tense of the sentence.
“Used to” Meaning Something Normal or Usual
When writing or speaking about something that usually happens or something you’re accustomed to, always use: used to.
The confusion with use to or used to in a sentence is they both sound similar when spoken. We tend to spell things based on how they sound.
Use To or Used To: Listening Exercise
Click the play button to start the listening exercise.
In the first sentence, the speaker says used to. In the second, he says use to. Can you tell which sentence correctly uses: used to or use to? Answer: The first sentence is the correct usage of the word.
In fact, English is full of commonly misspelled words because of various grammar rules. But don’t let that confuse you in this situation. If you’re speaking about something that you or someone normally does, the correct form is used.
“Get Used to It”
In the above examples, the formula for creating the phrase is to be + used. However, there is an idiomatic phrase related to the above construction that you’ll hear often in American English.
The formula is get + used to OR to be + getting (participle) + used to. It means that the sense of normalcy about something is still ongoing. Again, used is always the correct form.
“Used To” as a Past Action, Idea or Fact
The last instance of this idiomatic phrase is when speaking about something that occured or existed in the past but not anymore. You may see usage of a present tense compliment to this form in older English books from the 19th Century, but that form is long gone.
Only used to is used in this instance.
There is one exception where use to is correct in this usage. It is when the phrase is paired with did or didn’t as they will reflect the past tense.
However, the negative construction can seem a bit too formal. It’s best to use the simple past tense without the phrase.
Here are some additional resources on when to use use to or used to:
With this guide, hopefully you have some confidence in using use to or used to. As you can see, you’ll mostly stick to used to with one exception.
Be sure to bookmark this site for reference when writing and leave a comment below to let us know if you can think of any other commonly confused words.