English Grammar point “used to”

Important English grammar point: “Used to”

This post is dedicated to important IELTS speaking grammar point. It’s not just for IELTS exam, but it is very important for natural English conversation.

 What do you use it for?

English grammar for "used to"

Source: IELTSResource.com

When you want to describe something that used to be true in the past but no any more.

For example,

– There used to a cinema hall here. It’s been converted into a shopping complex now.

– In the past, very few students used to have laptops. Now, almost everyone uses it.

– We used to live in Amsterdam, but now we live in London.

(Explanation: Few years ago small number of students could afford or use laptops but now everyone uses it.)

When you’re talking about something you did in the past but not doing it now.

– Lisa used to play tennis a lot. Now, she hardly finds any time for sport.

– After giving birth to a baby, Amanda has put on some weight. She used to be so slim.

(Explanation: This means she was slim in the past but now she is little overweight.)

Common Mistakes with “Used to”

Remember the correct structure for “used to” is:

Used to + verb

Speaking structures with "used to"

“Used to” Speaking grammar


  • It’s used only for past tense. There is no present. So, you cannot sayI use to play” or “I use to live”.

You should simply say “I live” or “I play”.

  • For asking questions, you’ll have to use “use to”

For example, if you want to ask someone if he/she used to do something, you can ask

Did you use to live in Amsterdam?

You can’t ask “Did you used to live in Amsterdam?”

  • The same goes for negative responses.

You can’t say “I used not to live in Amsterdam”

You must say “I didn’t used to live in Amsterdam. You might have seen someone else”

  • Many students speak like this.

I am used to play cricket.


I am used to playing cricket but now I don’t find enough time to do so.

The first sentence is structurally wrong. You could say “I used to play cricket” without “am”.

In the second sentence, it’s different in meaning. It means you’re comfortable playing cricket. You find it easy to play cricket. You have done it many times.

So keep the structure in mind.

Used to + verb

Here is a quick video to help you understand this lesson.

How can you use it in IELTS?

OK, until now, we have seen its use in English and now that we have understood the grammar of this, we should think on how we can use it in IELTS.

Suppose, you’re asked a question about the past and you’re not able to do something right now that you used to do. Then, that’s the right time to use this structure. IELTS examiner will be impressed if you use it correctly.

OK, let’s practise using it. Answer the following question with “used to”.

How often did you play outdoor sports when you were a child?

Answer: I used to play badminton quite often. In fact, ….

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