Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Get ready for a grammar episode, y’all!

We’ll teach you how to use “used to” with a d and “use to” with no d.

We’re going to tell you about a common grammar error that you want to avoid.

Though our main message is connection not perfection, there are some important grammar rules.

Today’s question covers a common mistake made by both natives and second language learners!

Today’s question

I have a question that I’ve been struggling to figure out whether it is right or wrong.

It’s about the word *used* or “used to”.

I’m not sure how to use it if it’s in the past tense.

Take these for example: I’m not used to seeing him like this. (present)

I wasn’t used to seeing him like this.

He didn’t used to be like this. (Wrong, I think. If it is indeed wrong, how do you use this phrasal verb in this form?)

Don’t say “used to could!”

Native speakers in different parts of the United States make regionally accepted grammar errors.

In the rural area where Aubrey grew up in Idaho, people sometimes say “used to could.”

We used to could turn left there, but we can’t now.

This is incorrect grammar!

You will hear natives make grammar errors often, and you don’t want to let it confuse you!

Connection not perfection

Natives make grammar errors all the time!

This is especially common in areas with less educated populations.

You’ll also hear verb tense errors like, “We was” or “They was.”

In parts of Pennsylvania, instead of “guys” or “people” they’ll often say “yuns.”

This is proof for you that it is ok for you to make grammar errors when speaking English!

Don’t get caught up trying to speak perfect English.

With some mistakes, you’ll fit right in with many native English speakers!

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#1: Speaking

When spoken, “used to” and “use to” sound the same.

There is no difference in the pronunciation.

For “used to,” we combine the “d” at the end of “used” and the “t” at the beginning of “to.”

Therefore, it sounds the same as “use to.”

Because of this, you don’t need to worry about this common grammar mistake on IELTS Speaking.

#2: Writing

You do need to avoid this error on IELTS Writing!

You can lose grammar points with “used to” and “use to.”

This is because they are written differently, and the grammar determines which you use.

These have 2 different meanings, and you need to know the difference.

This will help you avoid grammar mistakes on IELTS Writing.

Used to

Use this verb to talk about anything that’s a habit or familiar in the past or in the present.

We used to go to that eatery often, but the service has gone downhill.

We are used to going to that restaurant because it’s our favorite.

You must use connected speech, or allision, for the “d” and “t” sounds.

The “t” is more powerful, so it takes over.

Use to

This form of the phrasal verb you will use when the verb contains “did.”

It’s always in the past, and is something that happened in the past but doesn’t anymore.

I didn’t use to eat really well, but now I do.

I didn’t use to exercise as often as I do now.

I did use to wake up early, but now I don’t!


If you’re really worried about your grammar score and having perfect grammar, you won’t spend enough time on other scores.

Your Fluency, Cohesion/Coherence and Task scores must be the main focus!

That being said, there are some quick wins when it comes to grammar rules!

Our recent grammar series focused on the grammar rules that will help you boost your IELTS Grammar score.

Don’t get lost in a rabbit hole of studying every grammar rule.

Instead, focus on what will help your score.

For all the strategies you need, get into 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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