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used to: 2 essential uses and easy examples

Used to

Used to expresses discontinued past habits. It highlights the fact that the action is no longer done in the present.

  1. Peter used to ride a bike.
  2. I used to tell my kids stories before going to bed.

Now let’s consider the following questions about sentence 1 above:

  • Are we speaking about the present or the past? (PAST)
  • Does Peter ride a bike now? (NO)
  • Did he ride a bike in the past? (YES)
  • Did he ride it once or many times? (MANY TIMES; it was a habit)

The questions above show that we are talking about an action that happened many times in the past(it was a habit) and does not happen now anymore.

Used to also expresses repeated past states that are no longer true.

  • I used to be fat. I’m thin now.
  • We used to live in Manchester.
  • I used to have long hair.

The negative form: Didn’t use to

  • He didn’t use to play rugby.
  • We didn’t use to go to school on foot.
  • I didn’t use to cook my meals.

Used to or would?

“Would” can replace used to when it expresses an action, not a state.

  1. Peter would ride a bike.
  2. I would tell my kids stories before going to bed.
  3. When I was a child, I would play video games.



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