Used to using ‘used to’?

Yesterday I was sitting with a group of trainees conducting a needs assessment for a communication program. Most of them come with around 10 years of experience and interact a lot with clients overseas.

While interacting with them, I found that almost all of them used ‘used to’ to describe routine activities. For example, ‘I used to negotiate with candidates on salaries’. I asked them if they don’t negotiate anymore and they would reply, ‘No, we negotiate almost every day with every candidate’. Then I asked, why are you using ‘used to’ and they had no answer. Funnily, all of them used the expression ‘used to’ in the same context.

This is not the first time that I have heard ‘used to’ being used incorrectly. In fact, in my training, when a participant uses ‘used to’ to describe a routine action, I ask him if he is married. If he is, then I say, ‘Well, you used to be a bachelor, but now you are a married man’. In my experience, this example has been enough to clarify the use of ‘used to’ forever!

‘Used to’ can only be used in the past tense to describe what used to happen regularly in the past.

Look at these examples:
1. I used to enjoy dancing, but I don’t have time for it anymore.
2. We used to take care of invoicing earlier until we outsourced it to another company.

‘Used to’ also means something that you are familiar with doing because you have done it before.
For example:
1. I am used to working late.
2. She is used to drinking ten cups of coffee a day.
3. They are used to the noise outside.

So, get used to this!