The confusion over used to versus use to is largely due to the casual way we talk to each other. Unless the speaker makes a determined effort to say âused [pause] to,â the d at the end of âusedâ gets swallowed by the stronger t sound. Usually, when someone says something like âI used to read more,â anything from âuse toâ to âyoostaâ is what we hear.
So is use to ever grammatical? Many authorities, including most of those found online, say use to is correct only in one special case: when it is preceded by did, did not, or didnât, as in, Did you use to live nearby? or He didnât use to be a writer.
In all other casesâi.e., most of the timeâused to is the only option.
Youâd think that would settle it. However, one finds dissension among eminent twentieth-century English scholars. In The Careful Writer (1983), Theodore M. Bernstein verifies did use to and didnât use to, but adds that âemploying use in this sense, though common in conversation, lacks grace in writing.â Roy H. Copperud concurs: in A Dictionary of Usage and Style (1967), he writes that with did and didnât, âthe form is use to, though such constructions are clumsy and best avoided.â But Bryan A. Garner, in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (1998), takes issue: âIt shouldnât be written didnât use to.â And John B. Bremner, in Words on Words (1980), states flatly, âSome otherwise respectable authorities notwithstanding, the use of use to instead of used to is barbaric.â
The best advice is to rewrite. Instead of Did you use to live nearby? one might say Did you ever live nearby? Instead of He didnât use to be a writer, how about He never used to be a writer. Such easy fixes are painless ways around a prickly mini-controversy.
Start the New Year right by fixing any of the following sentences that need it.
1. There are four times as many rocks than there were before.
2. A dollar or two are all it costs.
3. This phenomena is all too common.
4. He is one of those people who like opera.
5. It had already began when me and Juan arrived.
6. The decision is theirsâ to make.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. There are four times as many rocks as there were before.
2. A dollar or two is all it costs.
3. This phenomenon is all too common.
4. He is one of those people who like opera. CORRECT
5. It had already begun when Juan and I arrived.
6. The decision is theirs to make.
Posted on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 9:25 pm
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