Good morning, again, everyone.! You may have noticed that in yesterday’s post I wrote the expression used to a few times. You probably already know the meaning of the word use. Use means to do something with (an object, machine, person, method, etc.) in order to accomplish a task, do an activity, etc. I can then write a sentence with the word use in the past to explain what I accomplished with a specific object.
- I used a sharp knife to cut the tomato.
You may also see someone write this sentence in the passive voice .
- A sharp knife was used to cut the tomato.
If you are a beginner, do not worry too much about the passive voice for now! I only want you to notice that the sentence has used to in its original meaning. However, the expression used to has two other meanings, or two separate uses, that are very common in English.
Used to: To Talk About How the Past is Different from the Present
Used to can be used to express difference between the past and the present. If shows that there has been a change. For example, in the past, I hated spinach. Now, I like spinach.
Usually, when used to is used in this way, you can rephrase the sentence with anymore.
- I used to hate spinach.= I do not hate spinach anymore.
Note: If the sentence uses did or didn’t to express the past, you will only use use to. Notice the expression is followed by an infinitive verb.
We can also use this expression in questions. For example,
- Where did you used to buy your food?
Used to: To Express Familiarity or Comfort
To be used to something means to be familiar, comfortable, or habituated with something. I eat spinach every week. It is normal for me. I am familiar with it.
In this case our construction is [subject + be (conjugated) + used to + noun].
To ask a question, we change the order to:
Notice that gerunds (verb+ing) can also be a noun. I wash dishes every day. It is normal for me.
- I am used to washing dishes.
With this meaning of the expression, used to is often with the word get.
- I am getting used to spinach: I did not have a habit of eating spinach, but now I eat it, and it is becoming normal for me.
- I got used to the taste of spinach: I was not familiar with the taste, but I became familiar with it, and it is normal.
- Are you getting used to the taste of spinach?: Are you becoming familiar with its taste?
- I can’t get used to the taste of spinach: I will never think it is normal.
How Can You Know?
To know what the expression means each time, you will have to look at or listen to the context of the expression. If used to is followed by a noun or a gerund (an “ing” word), it is expressing familiarity. If it is followed by an infinitive verb, then it is expressing a change from the past or explaining what an item is used for.
Examples from yesterday’s cooking post
In the cooking post, there are three examples of uses. Which do each of these mean? Am I using the proper sense, talking about the past, or talking about being familiar with something?
- When I was young and lived with my parents, I used to help them a little bit with baking and cooking.
- I wasn’t used to such strong criticism at the time!
- Jordan is used to me trying new things.
Here are my explanations. Are they what you expected them to be?
- Past: I am talking about the past. I do not live with my parents anymore, so I do not help them in the kitchen anymore.
- Familiarity: Even though I am talking about the past, used to is not referring specifically to the past. In this sentence, I am talking about being familiar with accepting criticism.
- Familiarity: Jordan knows that I try new foods in the kitchen, so he is familiar with my cooking.
- Write two sentences telling how your life has changed since four years ago using used to.
- Write two sentences about foods you are used to or foods you are not used to.
Feel free to write your answers in the comments and I will correct any responses if necessary.
You didn’t use to use used to, but now you are getting used to it, right?