Are You Used to This by Now?

Are you used to this by now?
by Guy Perring

TAKE a look at the following sentence: Computers used to be more expensive than they are now. We use used to + infinitive to describe past states or habits which are not true now. For example:

I used to smoke a pack a day, until I got married.
I used to drive to work, but for the sake of the environment I now take the bus.

Both the above express past habits. You should note that we can’t use used to in the present tense for present habits. So in the example above, we can’t say I now use to take the bus. Question forms such as “Used you to smoke when you were a college student?” are possible in a formal, British style. However, it is now more common to use the normal question form:

Did you use to smoke when you were a college student?

Pronunciation can cause problems since both used to and use to are pronounced identically. In the above example, it is quite common for the written form to be mistakenly spelt as in “Did you used to smoke when you were a college student?”

When adverbs are used with this structure, they can either go before or after used. Take a look at the examples below and think about when you would use:

Before I had children, I always used to work late at the office.
Before I had children, I used always to work late at the office.

No difference in meaning, but the second example would be used in a more formal situation and the first example is more conversational and informal.An alternative to used to is would as in the example below,

Every summer the company would hold a staff party.
Every summer the company used to hold a staff party.

This is for an action that happened repeatedly in the past. In this case, would and used to are interchangeable. However, you can’t use would when referring to a past state:

Ahmad Rais used to own Timecel Industries. (This is fine)
Ahmad Rais would own Timecel Industries. (Not possible!)

Another area of potential confusion is between the forms below:

I didn’t use to use a PDA.
I wasn’t used to using a PDA.

In example (a), the meaning is that in the past, you didn’t use a PDA, but now you do. In example (b), you found using a PDA a new and difficult experience.This second usage refers to the process of becoming familiar with a new situation:

I’ve lived in Malaysia for two years and I’m used to the heat now. I love the food and am very used to eating at street stalls. I still haven’t got used to the driving, though!
I hope you are used to reading this column by now!

Guy Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning opportunities from management and communication skills training to developing English skills. Visit it at e-mail

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Comment by Zaw Win on April 10, 2012 at 15:30

Thank you so much.

Comment by thwe thwe phyo on March 22, 2012 at 10:40


Comment by Thida Aung on March 13, 2012 at 10:31

Thanks a lot. I like it very much.

Comment by zero on February 25, 2012 at 1:37

thanks alot

Comment by zayar on December 17, 2011 at 0:33

Now I know the usage of used to  clearly. Thanks :)

Comment by pyesoetun on July 8, 2011 at 22:13
That's very useful.
Comment by minchitthu on June 17, 2011 at 15:11
Perfect explanation!

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