In this week’s blog post, we will be going over how to talk or write about past actions and abilities in English, in other words, things that we did or could do in the past but don’t do or are no longer to do. For this we need to use a form of the past that involves the expression “used to”. 


While the present simple is used to talk about our current routines and habits, “used to” can be used to express things we did regularly in the past such as past hobbies or habits. When building a sentence with this expression it is structured like this: 


Subject + used to + verb (in infinitive) 


Here are some examples: 


I used to play football every weekend. (I played football every weekend in the past, but I don’t anymore.)

She used to live in New York. (She lived in New York in the past, but she doesn’t now.)

They used to be best friends. (They were best friends in the past, but they aren’t now.)


When talking in the present, we normally use expressions like “usually” and “tend to” and other frequency adverbs to talk about our current habits: 


He usually plays football every weekend. 

We normally go to the beach in the Summer. 

James tends to go shopping on Thursdays.


When using the negative of “used to”, the structure changes: 


Subject + didn’t (did not) + use to + verb (in infinitive)


Here, we add “didn’t” to make the structure negative and remove the “d” from “used” as “didn’t” is already in the past. Here are some examples:


I didn’t use to like spinach. (I didn’t like spinach in the past, but I do now.)

They didn’t use to go shopping on Thursdays. (They didn’t go shopping on Thursday, but they do now.)


When forming questions with “used to” the structure also changes like this:


Did + subject + use + to + verb (in infinitive)


Again, in the question form we remove the “d” from “used” because “Did” is already in  the past form. Here are some examples: 


Did you use to play a musical instrument? 

Did you use to like carrots?

Did you use to listen to rock music?


By understanding these structures, you can effectively use “used to” to talk about past habits or states, and simple present or other constructions to talk about current habits.


Don’t forget to download the PDF worksheet of this post here.