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Used to Versus Use to, and Other Listener Questions

Find out how to use “used to” and “different from” and how to make acronyms plural.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #087

used to

About a month ago I answered a bunch of short listener questions, and I promised I'd answer a few more short ones soon. Well, today's the day!

Use to Versus Used to

Hi, Grammar Girl. This is Barrett in Nantucket on Nantucket Island, of course. My question is about the usage of I used to and whether that is I use to u-s-e or u-s-e-d. I referenced it on the Internet and couldn't get a definitive answer on that. Both options seem to come up and it ended up coming to a head today with a lunch with a bunch of construction guys sitting around the bar arguing. And I thought that was pretty funny, and thought now is the time to call Grammar Girl. Thanks. Keep it up.

The right way to say this is used to with a d on the end. People get confused about this phrase because the d and t sounds between the words are easy to run together, but it's easy to remember that used to is the right form. Just remember that when you say you used to do something you are talking about the past, and you make most verbs past tense by adding -d or -ed to the end. So just as you say you heavED yourself into the kayak or twirlED in a circle, you say you usED to have a lot more fun than sitting around at lunch arguing about words. Thanks, Barrett!

Thanks to Luther Killebrew for this addition:

" 'Use to' is correct in the negative and question forms. 'I didn't use to like mushrooms, but now I eat them all the time.' "

Different From Versus Different Than

Grammar Girl, this is Tom in Waco, Texas. I've got three items I'd like to get your opinion on. One is the use of different from versus different than. I always was taught, and this was high school over 50 years ago, that it was always different from.

Hi, Tom. I answer only one question per person, so I chose your first one. Most language experts prefer different from to different than. I keep this straight by remembering that different has two f's and only one t, so the best choice between than and from is the one that starts with an f -- from. Different from.

Next: Making Acronyms Plural

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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