How not to use ‘used to’

How not to use ‘used to’

The expression, ‘used to’, is a common one.

Often, it comes up in our speeches and writing. Unfortunately, many people mishandle it to the extent that they give it meanings that contradict its original sense.

‘Used to’ expresses an action that was a habit or regular in the past, but which the person involved has stopped. The action was common before. It could even be done always in the past; but for one reason or the other, it no more takes place. So, when you use ‘used to’ you are talking about that occurrence that does not come up again.

This means that it is very wrong to describe an action that is still constant with the expression, ‘used to’.

Consider the following examples:

  1. My mum said I used to cry a lot when I was a baby.
  2. During the colonial era, Britain used to appoint political leaders for Nigeria.
  3. Sokoto and Jalingo used to be together as a state.
  4. In all the three examples, the actions or events were common in the past but they do not occur again.

Now consider the following wrong handling of ‘used to’:

  1. I used to bathe every morning.
  2. President Buhari used to address the country on Independence Day.
  3. The sun used to rise in the east and set in the west.
  4. These sentences are wrong because the actions still take place.

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