Verb tenses: used to


I used to to cook every day - Eu costumava cozinhar todos os dias

We use the expression used to to communicate a finished habit or a repeated situation in the past:

  • When I lived in London, I used to cycle to work. (I don't do it anymore)
  • It's amazing to think that over 20,000 people used to live here a century ago.

Negative form

In the negative, there are two possible forms: did not use to (common in Spoken English) and used not to (more formal and less common):

  • The shop didn't use to sell fresh fish, but now it does.
  • This used not to be a problem, but now it is rather worrying.

Question form

Used to is not commonly used in questions. The structure is: 'Did you use to?' or 'Did there use to be?'. Instead of using these forms, it is common to just use the past simple:

  • Did you play tennis? Did you use to play tennis?

  • Were there shops here? Did there use to be shops here?

Further learning
Description Author Language
A really quick overview of how to construct 'used to' phrases. BBC Learning


This grammar section includes materials sourced from the following: Linguapress,