Posted by: Idioma Extra | February 23, 2012

Thursday Tidbits


The difference between used to and be used to

There is often some confusion in how to proper use used to and be used to. They are very similar in structure, but are very different in meaning and usage. The following will help you distinguish between the two:

Used to: This structure is applied when referring to actions done in the past, but no longer. Look at the following examples.

Structure for statements: Subject + used to + simple form of verb

When I was in high school, I used to play soccer with my friends during recess.

I used to eat a lot of junk food, but now I have a healthy diet.

Structure for questions (using ‘did’):  Did + subject + use to + simple form of verb

Did you use to play an instrument when you were younger?

Where did you use to work before this job?

Notice that in question form, the –ed form is not used. This is because ‘did’ already indicates that we are talking about the past.

Be used to: This structure is used when talking about habits that someone has or things done regularly. It is synonymous with “be accustomed to.”

For example:

Structure for statements: Subject + form of be +used to + gerund(questions are the same except for…

I am used to waking up every morning at 5am.

My brother started his first job. He is not used to having so much responsibility.

This structure isn’t used very often to refer to the past. It is generally used in the present.

Check Yourself!

Now look at the following examples and choose the correct form to complete the sentence. Then indicate the correct context (PA-past action or H-habit).

1. The grocery store by my house (use to/ used to) close at 7pm, but now they are open until 9pm. ___

2. I got lost because I took a different bus home today. I am used to (taking / take) a different bus route. ___

3. I (am used to / used to) wear jeans to class every day when I was in high school. ___

4. Did you (used / use) to wear a tie at your previous job? ___

5. I felt uncomfortable at the party because I (am not used to / used to) being around so many people. ___

6. I used to (bringing / bring) a lunch to work, but now I go to the food court for lunch. ___

7. I’m having problems understanding the Microsoft Office 2007 functions because I (am used to / used to)  using the 2003 format. ___

8.  We (used to / are used to) be able to wear jeans to the office on Fridays, but the company changed the policy. ___

Answers to last week’s Check Yourself!

1. The technician had to fix all the computers in the department.
2. I need you to count every coin that you have.
3. I couldn’t eat the whole hamburger.
4. I try to exercise (every / all) month. (both are possible)
5.  All members of the group heard the noise.
6. I’m too tired to finish the whole assignment tonight.
7. Every member of my family was invited.
8. Unfortunately, I need to work (every / all) week. (both are possible)
9. I lost all the files.
10. My boss told me to clean the whole the office.


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