English Grammar

Used to meaning in English grammar with modal verb and structure

Used To

Used to” is a modal verb used to refer to actions in the past that are not happening in the present. Also it can be used as an adjective when it is preceded by the verb “to be” which acquired a different meaning. Used to meaning in English grammar

This means that the phrases “I used to” (modal verb) and “I’m used to” (adjective) are not equivalent. So that you better understand the difference, we explain below what are the uses that are given to this verb .

“Used to” as a modal verb

Specifically, it is used to indicate habits or talk about recurring themes in the past that are no longer happening. In other words, it speaks to us of a truth from the past but which is no longer so in the present. So the phrase “I used to …” translates to “I used to …”. Used to meaning in English grammar

As with other modal verbs, we use “used to” followed by the infinitive form of the verb (base form without to). Let us remember that modal verbs act as auxiliaries and are combined with other verbs in order to express the verbal “mode”, that is, its need or possibility.

Sentence structure when we use “used to”

Next, we show you the structure that the sentence must have when the modal verb used to” is used to affirm, deny or ask .

Affirmative Sentences

The verb used to” to affirm is followed by an infinitive verb without the “to” , as reflected in the following structure: Used to meaning in English grammar

Subject + “used to” + verb in the infinitive without the “to”

For example:

  • We used to play soccer when we were younger.
  • Anthony used to smoke , but he gave it up last year.
  • used to like fish, but I never eat it now.
  • There used to be a dancehall here, but they knocked it down last month.

Negative Sentences

In negative sentences, the verb “used to” becomes simply “use” followed by the infinitive verb without the “to” . While the particle “didn´t” indicates that the sentence is in the past tense. Used to meaning in English grammar

Subject + didn’t + use to + infinitive verb without the “” to ”

For example:

  • We didn’t use to have smartphones, but now we do.
  • Mary didn’t use to ride a horse.
  • didn’t use to watch horror movies when I was young.

Interrogative Sentences Used to meaning in English grammar

When we form interrogative sentences, again the verb “used to” is placed as “use to” . It is the particle “Did”, at the beginning of the sentence, which tells us that the question is in the past tense.

Did + subject + use to + verb?

For example:

  • Didn’t he use to play tennis?
  • Did you use to be shy?
  • Did they use to go to the Canada on vacation?

Can I use “used to” in the present tense? Used to meaning in English grammar

No. The verb “used to” is not used in present habitual actions, otherwise, it is always used in the past (past simple). To refer to recurring habits or actions in the present, adverbs such as “usually” (usually) or “normally” are used.


  • We usually go to the cinema every weekend.
  • He normally watches a movie after homework.
  • They usually play basketball on Sundays.

On the other hand, you can also use the modal verb “would” to refer to recurring events or actions from the past .


  • When we were young, we would go to the mountain every month.
  • At the school, they would play golf every Saturdays. Used to meaning in English grammar

You must take into account that the modal verb “would” is only valid for actions and not for habits or moods. It is also not used in negative sentences. The following are examples of incorrect forms when using would:

  • She would drink too much .
  • When I was a litlle boy I wouldn’t go to the mountain alone .

“To be used to” as an adjective (Being accustomed) Used to meaning in English grammar

When “used to” appears preceded by the verb “to be” it becomes an adjective that when translated means “to be used to” . This adjective is used for familiar, common or normal things and has the peculiarity that it can be used in any tense. So the phrase “I’m used to” means “I’m used to it.”

When using “to be used to” followed by a verb, the verb must end in “-ing”. This is the structure you must follow when using “used to” as an adjective:

Subject + verb “to be” + “used to” + verb in ing.

These are some examples:

You can also use it without adding a verb in ing and the translation is the same, that is to say “be used to“. Look at the following example:

  • Are you used to this weather?
  • I’m not used to this warm weather.

On the other hand, when using the verb “get” in place of the verb “to be”, the phrase takes the meaning of “getting familiar with something”. As it’s shown in the following: Used to meaning in English grammar

  • I have quit this job over 3 years ago. He has gotten used to living with less income.
  • With this company she is getting used to traveling a lot.
  • We need to get used to this cold weather in Alaska if we are going to establish here.

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