English Lessons

Topics

The phrase "used to"

The phrase "used to" is a great one to know in English, as it has three different functions. 

 

1. First of all, "used to" is the participle of the verb "to use" combined with the preposition "to." Note that in this case the "s" in "use" is pronounced more or less like a "z." The sentences below are about something being utilized for a particular purpose:

 

Java isn't the same thing as JavaScript, which is a simple technology used to create web pages.

Captions 6-7, Business English - About Java

 Play Caption

 

"Kinda," for example, combines "kind" and "of," but the word "kinda" is most often used as a casual synonym for "rather," and is used to modify an adjective or an adverb.

Captions 16-18, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

2. The phrase “used to” can mean “accustomed to.” In this case, "used" is pronounced with a soft "s" rather than a "z" sound. To "get used to" something is to gain experience or become comfortable with it to the extent that you expect it: 

 

Now I know that you're used to seeing me in warmer climates,

Caption 1, British Gas - top tips on preparing your home for cold weather

 Play Caption

 

I remember Madonna saying the colored contacts she wore for “Evita” were pretty uncomfortable and hard to get used to, for example.

Captions 45-46, Bohemian Rhapsody - Six facts about the true story - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

3. When we talk about habitual actions in the past in English, i.e. something you did on a regular basis, we often use the construction “used to” + infinitive. Here, the "s" in "used" is also pronounced with an "s" sound.

 

it's a lot more interesting and enticing than it used to be.

Caption 35, Alaska Revealed - Tidal bores, icebergs and avalanches - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

and I used to go there every Saturday and go to the market,

Caption 32, Creative Space - An Artist's Studio - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Further Learning
You can discover many instances of "used to" on Yabla English and get used to using this phrase yourself! As you can see, it is used to discuss not only practical uses, but also life experiences in the past and present. When you watch the videos, make sure you pay special attention to the difference in the pronunciation of the "s."

You May Also Like