Waylink English

'Used to' and 'use'

(Grammar Practice Worksheet)

Learners (and even some native speakers) get confused about the term 'used to'. They often get confused about when 'used' is appropriate and when 'use' is appropriate.

The expression 'used to' is appropriate when we are making a positive statement about events in the past. We often use it to refer to repeated actions that happened in the past.

  • I used to play for Manchester City (but I don't now).
  • When I lived in Brazil, I used to go diving every weekend (but I don't now).
  • She used to work really hard but she doesn't now.

We also use it to refer to states in the past.

  • There used to be some wonderful old houses over by the river (but there aren't now).
  • I used to be a professor but now I'm retired.

On occasions, it can be used for negative statements but this tends to be more formal and so is less frequent.

  • I used not to like eating spinach (but I do now.)
  • She's friendly now but we used not to like each other. (We do like each other now.)

In theory, the contracted form is possible but rare these days.

  • ?He usen't to have a dog in the past.

The word use is appropriate when we are making negative statements about the past and then we normally use it with didn't. We also use it when we ask questions.

  • She didn't use to behave so badly.
  • Did you use to live in Saffron Walden?
  • He didn't use to enjoy cycling, but he does now.
  • I know it sounds funny now, but we didn't use to grow vegetables.

We can use the negative form as well in questions.

  • Didn't you use to live in our road?
  • Didn't you use to have a cat?

"used to" to indicate familiarity

Note that used to can also have totally different meaning which is getting used to something. Don't confuse the two different meanings.

  • I'm used to getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning.
  • I was used to the heat but didn't like the other people.

Use the correct form to complete these sentences.

  1. People ...... have computers to work with, but now we do.
  2. Football players ...... earn so much money but advertising has changed the game completely.
  3. Jim ...... go to that school but now he's at university.
  4. I ...... eat a lot of chips. I don't any more.
  5. My daughter ...... go to Macdonald's but she doesn't any more because she believes that the food is unhealthy.
  6. I drive a small, economical car now although I ...... drive a large, gas-guzzling, four-wheel drive.
  7. He ...... enjoy swimming but he goes every day now.
  8. ...... we ...... have a pet snake when I was small?
  9. I ...... believe in God but now I don't.
  10. ...... you ...... sit in the row behind me at school?

Complete this passage using the correct expressions.

When he wasn't away because he was ill, he was away because he had a problem at home. I ...... worry about it at first but gradually I became annoyed. He ...... turn up late and give an excuse. Sometimes he ...... come at all. I had to do my own work and most of his. That didn't seem fair to me so I did something about it. I ...... do the urgent work and leave the rest for him. I also ...... give people his mobile number so they could contact him at home. I ...... leave filing work for him to finish. After a while, he got the message and left. I was pleased because we employed Emma, who worked much harder. I saw him a few years later. He came up to me in a restaurant. "Didn't you ...... work at Emerson's?' he asked me. "Yes, I did, and I still do!' I said. "Now I own the company. It's doing very well." "Oh," he said. "I'm looking for a job." "Sorry," I said. "You ...... be very lazy and I doubt if you've changed."


Learning resources, notes and exercises for international students and teachers of English