Is it “Use to” or “Used to”? What is Correct?

TL;DR – “Used to” is correct when referring to past habits or states; “use to” is used in negative forms and questions.

Especially or Specially

Is it “Use to” or “Used to”? Understanding English Grammar

Navigating the intricacies of the English language can be daunting, especially when two phrases sound similar but have different implications. The confusion between “use to” and “used to” is a perfect example.

“Used to” in English Grammar

The phrase “used to” is a unique construction in English grammar, primarily employed to talk about past habits, situations, or actions that no longer exist or are no longer relevant. It’s a modal verb form, which means it’s used with the base form of a verb (the infinitive without ‘to’). This is somewhat unusual, as it’s in the past tense but does not take the regular conjugation patterns we might expect. Here are some example sentences:

  • I used to play football every Saturday.
  • She used to work in London.
  • They used to watch a lot of Spanish films.

In the sentences above, “used to” denotes actions or habits from the past. The “d” in “used” gives it a “d sound,” which makes it distinguishable in pronunciation.

When to Use “Use to”

While “used to” is more common, “use to” isn’t out of the picture. It’s typically reserved for negative sentences or questions in the past tense. This is because, in negative and interrogative structures, the auxiliary ‘did’ takes the past tense form, making “use” present:

  • Did you use to play the piano?
  • I didn’t use to like the French cuisine, but now I adore it.

It’s worth noting that in casual speech, many English speakers might still say “Did you used to?” However, if you’re aiming for correctness in line with English grammar conventions, especially in writing, “Did you use to?” is the right phrase.

Linguistic Nuances and Learning English

As learners progress in their English journey, they often encounter these nuanced differences. It’s these small distinctions, like the difference between the “t sound” and “z sound” or the conjugation of a particular verb, that can be the trickiest. Worksheets, in-depth lessons on English grammar, and the guidance of a linguist can be beneficial in these scenarios.

A Global Perspective

English, with its British, American, and other variants, has evolved with slight differences in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. While the “used to” vs. “use to” distinction remains consistent across these variants, other aspects of the language might change. For instance, certain adverbs, prepositions, or conjunctions might be used differently in London compared to New York or Sydney.

In Summary

In the vast realm of English language and grammar, understanding the correct phrase usage and the intricacies of past tense forms can elevate one’s fluency and comprehension. Remember, “used to” describes past habits or actions, and “use to” fits into the structure of negative and interrogative sentences in the past tense. As always, context is key, and when in doubt, referring to example sentences or English grammar resources can be incredibly helpful.


  • Is it correct to say used to or use to in a sentence?

Published on: 2023-09-30
Updated on: 2023-10-09

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Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.