Used To, Get Used To, and Be Used To

I used to study English every day, but it still took a while to get used to all the rules. Now I’m used to English grammar!

Last week, I blogged about How to Teach “Used To” in 6 Easy Steps, and I mentioned that the expression used to can sometimes be confusing for students. Once you’ve taught them about used to, it’s a good idea to follow up with a lesson on get used to and be used to. Students might assume all three expressions with used to have similar forms and meanings, but this isn’t the case. Get used to and be used to are similar to each other in form and function, but they are both quite different from used to. Try presenting these expressions using the comparison chart below, and get your students to practice with the discussion questions at the end. 

Used To

See How to Teach “Used To” in 6 Easy Steps for more details about the form, use, and tricky points. Includes practice exercises and a fun activity.

Get Used To

1. Form:     Get Used To + -ing Verb / Noun

Get used to is followed by a gerund (-ing verb) or a noun. In this expression, the used to part will never change to use to. Only get will change to reflect the verb tense.

2. Use:

Get used to indicates that something is becoming familiar. Use this expression for a new habit or routine. Though it is possible to use get used to for both positive and negative experiences, it is more commonly used with negative situations (e.g., when something is difficult).

3. Examples:

  • I’m getting used to living with my new roommate.
  • Our new teacher quickly got used to our large, multicultural class.
  • They couldn’t get used to the noisy neighborhood, so they moved.
  • Has your brother gotten used to his new boss?

Be Used To

1. Form:     Be Used To + -ing Verb / Noun

Be used to is followed by a gerund (-ing verb) or a noun. Note that the used to part will never change to use to. Only be will change to reflect the verb tense.

2. Use:

Be used to indicates that something has become familiar. Use this expression when something is now a habit or routine (and has been going on for a while). Like get used to, it is possible to use be used to for both positive and negative experiences, but it is used for negative situations slightly more often.

3. Examples:

  • She’s used to getting up at 6:00 a.m. because she does it every day.
  • Is your friend used to the noise from the construction site next to her office?
  • The teacher wasn’t used to answering so many questions during class.
  • By this time next year, I’ll be used to living in Brazil.

Practice

  1. Our Discussion Starters lesson on Fracking includes practice with get used to and be used to.
  2. Try the following discussion questions your students can ask each other to practice used to, get used to, and be used to.

I hope your students get used to these expressions quickly,

Tanya

21 comments

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  1. rodolfo.inec@gmail.com'

    Rodolfo says:

    Jun 26, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Now this is the kind of material ESL could make some more of. You guys have covered Used to very well, with a section that explains what someone does NOW and used to do THEN; The next step would be to use Get used to, Getting used to and Be+Used to and make some activities that would promote using all of those in order to make sentences. Something like:
    Alternative A: She wants to move to Canada, but it’s too cold in the winter.
    Answer: She needs to get used to the cold winter.
    Alternative B: She moved to Canada 5 years ago, but still struggles in the Winter.
    Answer: She is getting used to the cold winter in Canada.
    Alternative C: She has no more problems going through the winter in Canada.
    Answer: She got used to the cold weather/She is now used to the cold winter in Canada.

    Something like that would be very productive and make my students happy.

    Reply

  2. allfreedays@email.com'

    Green says:

    Feb 11, 2018 at 3:37 am

    Hi Mrs. Tanya

    I am a student, are these statements correct?

    I used to warm weather.
    I am used to warm weather.
    I am getting used to warm weather.
    I will get used to warm weather.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Feb 12, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Green,

      All of your sentences except the first one are correct! “I used to warm weather” isn’t correct. We have to use “used to” with another verb. So, for example, “I used to love warm weather, but now I prefer the cold” or “I used to swim in warm weather” are correct. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  3. madeintheusa07@yahoo.com'

    Dave says:

    Nov 08, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    After searching up and down, right and left throughout the entire web, your explanation was the most simple and yet complete of all. Thanks a bunch
    Oh, my doubt was about the structure of the interrogative form of “got used to”. I wasn’t sure if “used” remained in past or it had to be changed to “use” in present with the use of the auxiliary “did”

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Nov 08, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Dave! I’m glad you found the answer you needed.

      Reply

  4. steve.mac.gcpd@gmail.com'

    Steve Mac says:

    Sep 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    A very interesting blog – thank you for that.
    I found the vocabulary used in the meaning rather complex though

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks, Steve! For lower level learners, you could simplify things a bit:

      “Get used to” means something is becoming familiar or common. Example: I joined a gym last week. I’m getting used to exercising every day.

      “Be used to” means something is already familiar or common.
      Example: I joined a gym last year. I’m used to exercising every day.

      Reply

      • lika_gvaramadze@yahoo.com'

        lika says:

        Feb 14, 2018 at 5:22 am

        thanks Tanya, it helped me much in my teaching process ;) my students also confused “get used to” and “be used to”, so your explanation turned out to be the best way out :)

        Reply

  5. kashuurwela@gmail.com'

    Ana says:

    Jun 23, 2017 at 4:05 am

    I love the chart. It was just what I needed to help my class get their head around this. Thanks. They came up with a great example to use with all three types: I used to drive on the right. When I came to New Zealand I had to get used to driving on the left. Now I’m used to it. I drew a little image on the whiteboard to help those having difficulty understanding the concept change from ‘used to’. We finished by changing these affirmative statements into negative and question forms and using them in pairs.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Ana, great to hear! I love the example your class came up with.

      Reply

      • deadmanbck@gmail.com'

        Rari says:

        Aug 20, 2017 at 7:02 am

        Hi Tani…. below “get used to”is conjugated to all the 12 tenses. Can you check and tell us the correct tense?
        Thanks
        I get used to
        I am getting used to
        I have got/gotten used to
        I have been getting used to

        I got used to
        I was getting used to
        I had got/gotten used to
        I had been getting used to

        I will get used to
        I will be getting used to
        I will have got/gotten used to
        I will have been getting used to

        Reply

        • Tanya Trusler says:

          Aug 21, 2017 at 7:19 pm

          Hi Rari, yes, your conjugations look good, except that in the second set, the first one (simple past) should be “I got used to.” I’ve changed it for you. Also, note that you can use “got” or “gotten” as the past participle, so “have got/gotten used to,” “had got/gotten used to,” “will have got/gotten used to” are all possible, and I’ve added them to your list. I believe that “gotten” is more common in North American English, and “got” is preferred in British English. Finally, the past perfect/past perfect progressive tenses are possible but rare with “get used to”—same thing with the future perfect/future perfect progressive.

          Reply

  6. iamtheary23@gmail.com'

    Chantheary chheun says:

    May 21, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Hey
    Do these two sentences have a different meaning?

    I’m not used to driving on the left.
    I didn’t get used to driving on the left.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      May 23, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Hi there,

      Yes, those sentences have different meanings. “I’m not used to driving on the left” means that you have tried it and are CONTINUING to do it, but aren’t comfortable with it yet.

      “I didn’t get used to driving on the left” means that you tried it, but STOPPED doing it, and never felt comfortable with it.

      Reply

  7. ahnaf.shahriar11@gmail.com'

    ahnaf says:

    Jun 17, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I want to know what is the difference between “I get used to” and “I am getting used to”.Is it continious and indefintite??

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 17, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      Hi Ahnaf,

      I can’t think of a time when we’d use the simple present with “get used to” because the simple present is a repeated action and “get used to” is more or less one time. “Get used to” is just the base form of the verb.

      But to answer your question, let’s compare “getting used to” and “got used to.” Yes, getting used to is continuous, so for example, if you were taking snowboarding lessons and had completed two of five lessons, you could say “I’m getting used to snowboarding” because you aren’t completely used to it yet. If you said “I got used to snowboarding pretty quickly because I took some lessons last year” it would mean that you’re now used to snowboarding.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply

  8. mary.reid@magma-amgm.org'

    Mary says:

    Jan 21, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Actually, I would say that “I was used to driving to work” has more of a meaning of “I ‘used to’ ‘be used to’ driving to work”, i.e. I was comfortable driving to work in the past, but something happened recently and now I am not comfortable driving to work” OR if you are just telling a story completely in the past (I “was”…) and are describing your comfort with your driving skills (all in the past)—> “I was used to (“be used to” in the past) driving to work”

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Feb 03, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Mary. Your second comment is what I was describing before (your comfort level in the past). But I didn’t consider your first comment, and it’s a good point! “I was used to driving to work” could imply that you stopped or something happened, and you’re no longer comfortable with it.

      Reply

  9. hu.abraham@aol.com'

    Abraham says:

    May 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Hey

    Do these two sentences make a difference in meaning?
    I used to drive to work.
    I was used to driving to work.

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      May 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Abraham,

      Good question! Yes, the meanings are very different. “I used to drive to work” means that you drove to work every day last year, for example, but you don’t any more. Maybe now you take the train instead of driving.

      “I was used to driving to work” means that when you drove to work every day, you were comfortable and familiar doing so. Maybe someone asked you, “Didn’t all the traffic stress you out?” and you said, “No, I was used to driving to work”, meaning that it didn’t bother you.

      Hope that helps!
      Tanya :)

      Reply

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