Learn English | A new lesson every week
Book your course now

Using 'used to' for past habits

Average: 3.6 (101 votes)

I used to snowboard

'I used to ski, but now I snowboard.'

'Used to' for past habits

We use 'used to' to talk about past events which we no longer do. We only use it to talk about the past; there is no similar expression for the present.

'I studied French, but I don’t anymore.' → 'I used to study French.'
'In the past I smoked, but I don't now.' → 'I used to smoke.'

Note: after 'used' to we alway use the infinitive. Never use a continuous or past tense verb:

'I used to smoke.'
'I used to smoking.'
'I used to smoked.'

Asking questions using 'use to'

We usually use 'did' when we ask about past habits.

The typical question form is:

'Did you use to watch Mickey Mouse?'
'Did you use to like school?'

Note: 'Use to' is used in the question form not 'used to'.

Answering 'use to' questions

'Use to' questions can be answered in a couple of ways. Take a look at the follwing question and response:

'Did you use to wear a school uniform?'
'Yes, I used to wear a horrible uniform!'
(or in negative sentences)
'I didn't use to wear a uniform'. or 'I used not to...'

Using 'would' instead of 'used to'

We use 'would' when we want to talk about how often a past habit happenened. It can have the same meaning as 'used to'. For example:

'I used to go swimming twice a week.'→ ' I would go swimming twice a week.'
Note: Both of these sentences have the same meaning.

We can use 'would' instead of 'used to' when a time is mentioned:

'When I was young, I used to visit my grandmother every summmer.'→ ' When I was young, I would visit my grandmother every summer.'
Note: Both of these sentences have the same meaning.

If the sentence is not about a repeating habit/action, or does not include a time expression, we can not use 'would':

'I used to play piano.'→'I would play piano.'

It is more natural to say:

'I used to play piano. I would practise every day.'