Verb Patterns: Used to / Be used to / Get used to / Would

Verb patterns are one or two verbs followed by preposition. Some verb patterns may look similar but have very different meanings.

Consider the following examples:

  • I used to drive on the left when I lived in the UK.
  • I would drive to my mother’s house when I lived closer to her.
  • When I came to the UK, I had to get used to driving on the left.
  • I am used to driving on the left since I’ve lived in the UK for a long time.

Used to + infinitive

We use ‘used to + infinitive’ to talk about things that happened often in the past, but no longer happen.

This pattern can also be used for things that were true in the past, but are not true anymore:

  • I used to play football a lot, but I don’t play much now.
  • Ben used to drink a lot of beer when he was student. These days he doesn’t drink at all.
  • This building used to be a shoe factory, but now it is a museum.

Would + infinitive

We also use ‘would’ for things that were true in the past, but are not true anymore. It usually denotes habitual actions in the past but not past states:

  • When I was a child, I would watch TV every Saturday morning.
  • Every weekend I would go on a long bike ride.
Note: For many situations, both ‘used to’ and ‘would’ can be used. However, for past states, only ‘used to’ can be used.
– We used to live in London when I was a child.

‘Would’ is not used with state verbs (have, be, live, love, smell, feel, know, etc.).
    – She used to have a house in the country. NOT: She would have a house in the country.

Be used to + object

We use ‘be used to + object (gerund/noun/pronoun)’ to talk about something that has been done for a long time and is normal and familiar.

  • Can I have some pepper, please? I’m used to more spicy food. (be used to + noun)
  • Katrin was used to her classmates, so she missed them after moving to another town.(be used to + noun)
  • Jack is used to working alone; he never asks for any help. (be used to + gerund)
  • My dogs are used to playing with other pets when outdoors. (be used to + gerund)

Get used to + object

We use ‘get used to + object (gerund/noun/pronoun)’ to describe situations when we learn something new or adapt to new conditions:

  • Tom got used to new weather conditions within a couple of days.
  • It didn’t take much time for the students to get used to their new teacher.
  • When I travel, I get used to sleeping in a plane quite easily.
  • He got used to hearing the noise from the street.

Watch this video from Oxford English Now and learn about the difference between ‘used to’, ‘would’, ‘get used to’ and ‘be used to’:

See also:

Verb Patterns: Gerund vs Infinitive

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