Which is Correct: Use To or Used To?

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine when it is most appropriate to use the phrase 'used to' and when is the most appropriate time to leave out the 'd' and write 'use to.'

Spelling Error

I used to write 'use to,' but now I know better. A frequent mistake that writers make is writing 'use to' in place of 'used to.' Because the 'd' at the end of 'used' sounds like a /t/, and the second word, 'to' also starts with a /t/, spelling errors occur. Let's learn more about the use of 'used to', and discover if there are any times in which 'use to' is a more appropriate choice.

Recurring Habits

What does 'used to' mean and when should you use it? Used to means 'conditioned to something'. While we are used to seeing the 'd' at the end of words to indicate past tense (the form of the verb that indicates that the action has already happened) that is not necessarily the cased when using this phrase. 'Used to' is considered a quasi-modal verb. A quasi-modal verb is a helping verb consisting of a verb, plus either a preposition or an adverb that neither expresses tense nor number.

For example:

  • My siblings are used to sleeping late.
  • My dog, Emily, is used to taking walks every morning and afternoon.
  • Zachary is used to using a gas stove.

In both of these examples, 'used to' refers to a recurring habit rather than one that occurs in the past.

Past Events

That doesn't mean that it can't also be used to describe something from the past.

For example:

  • Dana used to be my roommate.
  • My family used to live in Austin, TX.
  • Jaimie used to ride horses.

In each of these sentences, used to means something that happened in the past that is no longer happening.

Use To

Are there ever times when 'use to' is more appropriate? Absolutely! When 'use to' is preceded by a form of the word 'do' in a negative statement, you do not need to add the 'd' to 'use.'

For example:

  • Didn't grandma use to work outside the home?
  • You did not use to care what other people thought about you.
  • What brand of soy sauce did you use to make fried rice?

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