As you watch the video, look at the examples of used to. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, used to.
Oliver: Where’s Mum?
Daisy: I don’t know. She called earlier and said she’d call back. She wants to speak to us both.
Oliver: Did she sound happy or serious?
Oliver: Is she finally going out with your headteacher?
Daisy: Ha! I’m not sure, but I think they’ve been seeing each other for a while. He didn’t use to wear nice clothes, and recently he’s looking quite cool.
Oliver: I wonder if she’ll start travelling less.
Daisy: Maybe. She used to go away on really long trips and these days it’s maximum a week.
Oliver: Oh! Hi, Mum! Are you in London?
Sophie: Yes! Surprise!
Oliver: Are you writing about London?!
Sophie: Yes, I am! I’d forgotten how amazing it is … and it’s near home.
Oliver: Haha. So … do you have more reasons to stay near home these days?
Sophie: No … like what?
Daisy: Never mind.
Sophie: I just thought that I’m always abroad, but we’ve got one of the most interesting cities in the world just an hour from home and I’ve never even written about it! So here I am. I haven’t been here to visit for years. It’s nothing like it used to be! The record shop I always used to visit is now a really cool café specialising in bubble tea!
Oliver: So what else did you use to go to London for?
Sophie: For fun. For concerts and to buy new clothes … but it didn’t use to be as busy as it is now. I love what they’ve done on the South Bank. I hadn’t seen the London Eye close up before, and the Tate Modern’s an impressive building with great views of the bit that used to be the docks.
Oliver: So is it all so different?
Sophie: No, not completely. The area near the river is very different, but the West End hasn’t changed much. The theatres are still great and Piccadilly Circus looks a little different than it used to, but it’s still a meeting place and the lights are still there, but … I like the new London! So …
Sophie: I’ve booked hotel rooms for the three of us for this weekend, so you can get to know London a bit better.
Oliver and Daisy: Cool! Wow!
Sophie: I’ll book your train tickets now and call you back in an hour or so. OK?
Oliver and Daisy: OK! All right!
We use used to + verb for talking about states or actions that were true or happened in the past, but are not true or do not happen now.
Can you give me some examples?
Yes, of course.
London’s nothing like it used to be!
She used to go away on really long trips.
OK. So now she doesn’t go away on really long trips?
Exactly. Used to is always for talking about actions or states in the past that are not true now.
The record shop I always used to visit is now a really cool café. (I don’t visit the place now.)
Why can’t you use the past simple?
Well, you can, of course. But we use used to to emphasise that the state or action is not true now or does not happen now.
What about the negative?
We use do in the past + not + the infinitive, use to + verb. The question is formed in a similar way.
He didn’t use to wear nice clothes and recently he’s been looking quite cool.
So what else did you use to go to London for?
That’s quite a long construction – three verbs!
Yes, but used to doesn’t change – it’s always in the past simple.
Always in the past simple? So you can’t use it in the present?
No, it’s a strange verb. We only use it in the past.
I think I used to use it in the present too.
Oh dear. You won’t any more, will you?
No, I didn’t use to know the rules, but now I do.
Worksheets and downloads
How have you changed, compared to when you were little? What activities did you use to do that you’ve stopped doing now?