Use To vs Used To: What's the difference?

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Lately, I’ve noticed some confusion with the way people use the idiomused to in a sentence.  Some write “use to and others write “used to?”  Do you know which one is correct? 

Use to and “used to cause confusion for a couple of good reasons.  First of all, they sound exactly the same when you say them out loud; however, one is correct and the other is often a mistake.  The second reason is because it can be used in the sentence as an adjective phrase or as a verb phrase. 

Before we step into usage quicksand, let’s quickly review idioms.  (You can also check out my previous blog on the subject entitled: What is an idiom?) “An idiom is an informal expression that cannot be understood simply by understanding its parts.  It is a figure of speech that has a separate meaning of its own, which is figurative and not literal.  When two or more words are expressed together to create a unique meaning that is different from the meaning of each of the individual words, an idiom is created.”

In order to understand how to use this idiom correctly when speaking and writing, let’s do a quick vocabulary check. 

Part 1: used to

As an adjective phrase, “used to” means “in the habit of” or “familiar with.”


Farmers are used to working outdoors in all seasons. 

(Farmers often work outdoors in the rain, snow, sleet, heat, and hail and are not bothered by it as much as people who don’t work outdoors.)

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Part 2: used to

As a verb phrase, “used to” or “did use to+ a verb means “did formerly; did in the past but not anymore. ---Usually used with an infinitive to tell about something past. 


Uncle Tim used to have a beard, but he shaved it off. 

(Uncle Tim once had a beard, but he doesn’t have one now.)

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Part 3: use to

The only time that it is correct to use “use towithout the –d at the end is when the base form of the verb is used along with a negative or in a question.  That’s because the form of the verb required is infinitive.

Example: (Note that past tense is shown with the words did and didn’t.)

She didn’t use to ride her bike before noon.

Did Uncle Tim use to have a beard?

The next time you are confused about using “use to” or “used to,” remember to do this quick vocabulary check. You will be glad you did!

Discovery Time: Creating a Winter Wonderland Tour

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If I could travel the world, I would!  I love the excitement of finding a new destination to experience.  I love having the freedom to go wherever I want or can afford whether I have a detailed itinerary or not!  For me, world travel is an adventure.  But, what if you don’t have the time or money to travel?   Shurley English can take you on a global adventure through Discovery Time!  

Discovery Time turns students into researchers. It gives them a chance to learn about different locations around the world, based on clues or tasks to complete.  For example, in Level 8, students choose one of Quigley’s Quests to complete.  One quest may ask the student to make a salt map of Machu Picchu, Peru; another may ask the student to imagine they are hiking the Incan Trail, research it, and create a brochure of must-see sights.  Students are given various options to showcase their creativity.  What an impactful way to teach across different subject areas and inspire your students to think globally!

As your students return from their Winter Break, keep them interested in learning by creating a Winter Wonderland Tour in your classroom!  Your students can make passports, create a travel-map bulletin board full of fun facts, incorporate countries from the Winter Olympics, etc.  You can make this engaging activity as big or as small as you want to. You never know how these experiences could inspire your student(s) to become a real world traveler.

Below, we have provided several examples of Discovery Time to help get you started. In each Discovery Time, students choose a quest and follow the directions to complete it.  Each quest offers great publishing ideas to share their work.  (Here’s more information on how to make the most of your Discovery Time.) If you don’t have Level 7 or Level 8 of Shurley English and would like to explore our curriculum in more detail, we invite you to go to our website and request an online sample of our language arts materials.

Happy traveling!

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Early Reading: What is microcomprehension?

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I read some information today about what’s missing in reading comprehension instruction, and the research that was provided jumped off of the page for me!  I had to get used to some new terminology, but it all made perfect sense!

The article stated that the latest research in early literacy found that there is an extra step between decoding and comprehension that most of us don’t know about.  They even had a name for the missing skill: microcomprehension.

In a nutshell, microcomprehension is described as the work you do to build a mental model or “visualized graphic organizer” from a text during reading­­­.  The language skills that are required to create a mental model are absolutely critical to comprehension. 

To help you understand a solid mental model of a text, take a look at this passage from The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh:

It’s a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,

They’d build their nests at the bottom of trees.

And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),

We shouldn’t have to climb up all of these stairs.


If I removed the passage from in front of you and asked you to explain what you read, you probably couldn’t recite it word for word.  However, you could use the mental model you hopefully created to tell me the gist of it. 

Basically, it said that if bears were bees they would build their nests down low in the tree, and if bees were bears, they could just build their nest up high without having to climb all of the branches.

Reading research now tells us that developing readers do not need more practice working on answering comprehension questions.  What they do need is better microcomprehension.  They need to learn the skills that will help them to create a better mental model to help them make sense of what they read. 

I can honestly say that Shurley English covers all of the microcomprehension skills necessary to create a mental model in true Shurley style!  Repetition, of course, is key!  Students learn how to apply this beneficial extra step between decoding and comprehension and to use it automatically. 

Are you ready for strategies to improve microcomprehension? Are you ready to explore multi-sensory approaches to help your early readers break the reading code? We invite you to STAY TUNED, as we will discuss these topics and much more in our latest blog series entitled, Early Reading.