Wednesday, March 13, 2013

USED TO vs BE USED TO - part 2: negatives & questions

I DIDN'T USE TO eat sushi because I didn't like the idea of eating raw fish. Now,
I  love it, but I know some people who ARE STILL NOT USED TO eating it.

This is part 2 of our lesson on the differences between USED TO + verb and BE USED TO + noun/gerund. In this lesson, we'll talk about how to form negatives and questions with these two phrases. If you haven't read part 1, please check that out first, so you can BRUSH UP (review) on how they differ in meaning and structure.

First, let's talk about USED TO + verb. Because it is only about the past, there is only one way to form the negative: using DIDN'T. Remember that whenever we use the auxiliary verb DO, the main verb is always in the simple form. So the negative of USED TO is simply DIDN'T USE TO.

1. I DIDN'T USE TO work out everyday; now, I do.
2. He DIDN'T USE TO like English; now, he does.

Similarly, because this phrase can only be about the past, we also use the auxiliary verb DID to form a question. As in the negative, the main verb must be in the simple form because of the presence of the auxiliary verb DID.

1. DID you USE TO live in another country?
2. DID they USE TO own a car?
3. How DID you USE TO get to work before you bought your car?

BE USED TO + noun/gerund, on the other hand, has the verb to BE, so to form the negative, we simply add NOT to whichever form of the verb to BE we are using. Because USED TO in this phrase is an adjective or the past participle form, we do not use the simple form. Remember that this phrase means to be accustomed to something or someone.

1. He'S NOT USED TO driving in the city. He prefers taking the train.
2. They'RE NOT USED TO speaking English on the phone yet.

To form a question, we also use the verb to BE (NOT the auxiliary verb DID). 

1. ARE you USED TO your new work schedule?
2. IS she USED TO working long hours?
3. IS your dog USED TO being home alone?

Of course, we can also use NEVER, which means "not once," to form the negative. However, because NEVER is not an auxiliary verb, we don't use the simple form. We keep USED TO in the past form.

1. I NEVER USED TO study for exams, which is why I flunked two of my classes.
2. They NEVER USED TO invite us to their parties. Now, they call us every time they have one.

With BE USED TO + noun/gerund, simply use NEVER instead of NOT.

1. I WAS NEVER USED TO the old rules. Now, we have new ones.
2. She WILL NEVER BE USED TO living with people who smoke. She hates cigarettes, so she'll probably move out soon.

The last two examples can also be expressed using the verb GET, which we will look into in part 3 of this series, so stay tuned!

1. What do you do now, that you DIDN'T USE TO do? 
[I DIDN'T USE TO go grocery shopping; now, I do.]
[I NEVER USED TO iron my shirts; now, I do.]
2. What ARE you still NOT USED TO DOING at work or at school?
[I'M still NOT USED TO the new computer system at work.]
[I'M still NOT USED TO using the new vocabulary we learned in class.]

Well, I hope you found this lesson useful. Please feel free to write your practice sentences or any questions below, on the NYLC page on Facebook, or @NYLangCenter on Twitter. Until next time. :-) 

-- Joe Yu, ESL instructor


  1. This is very informative. A lot of native speakers get some parts of this wrong.

  2. Thanks, Barbara. ... and absolutely, native speakers need to brush up on their grammar, as well. :-)

  3. My name is Alonzo and I'm attending classes at NYLC.. Definitely this is very useful .. Thank you for posting it!..

  4. We're very happy to hear that, Alonzo. Keep visiting the blog for more lessons. :-)