Tag Archives: used to

“get used to” and “be used to”

As we saw in a previous lesson, we often use the verb “get” to indicate a change of state. In the expression “get used to”, the change refers to adapting to a new situation or circumstance.

If you are going to live in a foreign country,for example, you will need to get used to living abroad.

Once this action (adaptation, familiarisation etc) is complete, you can say:

“I am used to living abroad”

In French, this translates roughly as “J’ai l’habitude de vivre à l’étranger”
But it is interesting to note that “get used to” and “be used to” refer to actions that were not easy to change, and are not generally used to describle normal daily activities.

So “j’ai l’habitude de lire le journal dans le train” does NOT translate as “I am used to reading the paper on the train”, because there is nothing difficult here, and no change was necessary.
A better translation would be, “I usually/often/always read the paper on the train”

Using would for the past

When I lived in London, I would do my shopping late at night

What do you understand from this sentence? You may have learned that “would” is used as a conditional, describing unlikely or hypothetical situations. That’s obviously not the case here, as there is no “if” and a past verb,”lived”.

“Would” can be the past of “will”. Sound strange? Here’s how to use it:

It is possible, then, to use “would” to describe past actions, a little like used to”

The difference between ‘would’ and ‘used to’ is that ‘would’ needs a time reference as the example above, ‘when I lived in London’.

Here are some other examples of would in the past that are very common amongst native English speakers:

My car wouldn’t start this morning
ma voiture ne demarrait pas ce matin

I wanted to go, but she wouldn’t let me
Je voulais aller, mais elle ne m’a pas permis