Grammar - Intermediate
"Used to" in English fulfills the function that, in many languages, is covered by a whole tense! We use "used to" to express something which happened regularly in the past but doesn't happen anymore. A past routine, a past habit.
I used to drink three whiskeys a day ten years ago, but then I stopped.
The question form uses "use to":
Did you use to live in this house, Tony?
I didn't use to like eating salad, but I love it now.
The past of the verb "use" is "used" which is spelt the same as "used to" but the pronunciation is very different. The past of "use" is pronounced with a /z/ sound - while "used to" is pronounced with an /s/ sound.
He used a computer. /u:zd/
Past Simple or 'Used To'?
We can also use past simple to talk about past habits or routines:
I lived in that house for ten years.
Just as we can use "used to":
I used to live in that house for ten years.
The difference is that we can't use "used to" for something that happened once.
I went to Lithuania in 1999.
Would or 'Used To'?
We can also use "would" in a similar way to "used to".
Every day as a child, she would pedal that old bike to school.
But we don't use "would" for state verbs:
I used to have a teddy bear when I was young.
Gerund Or Infinitive
Here is a brief summary of when we use the infinitive and the gerund in English.
Also, check out our page on simple verb patterns.
After certain verbs
She always enjoys seeing a good thriller at the cinema.
As the subject of a sentence
Watching TV every day isn't healthy for children.
You shouldn't eat too much before going to bed.
After certain verbs
I want to go to Mexico for a year after university.
He was pleased to see we had finished our work.
Some verbs can be followed by the infinitive and the gerund. but with a different meaning. For more on this, go to the second part of Infinitive or Gerund.
She stopped smoking two years ago.
We use needn't in the same way as we use don't have to. It means something is not necessary.
You needn't come with us. You can stay at home if you want.
We use needn't have for something that wasn't necessary in the past:
I needn't have come to school today! There is a teachers' strike!!
Needn't have, as in the two sentences above, tells us something in the past that wasn't necessary in the past, but we did it. We can use "didn't need to" to say what wasn't necessary in the past that we knew before wasn't necessary.
It was Sunday yesterday and I wasn't working so I didn't need to get up early.
Compare these two situations:
I bought 2kg of sugar yesterday but my wife tells me now that we have a lot of sugar already so I needn't have bought the new bag. It was my mistake because I didn't check first.
I bought 2kg of sugar yesterday. I knew we had some sugar and that I didn't need to buy more but this new bag was on special offer at the supermarket so I bought it anyway.
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