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What is the difference in the meaning between the following two tenses?

I used to travel alone.
I was used to traveling alone.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

"I used to [do X]" indicates an activity that you have previously performed regularly, but no longer do.

"I was used to [doing X]" indicates that you were accustomed to engaging in a particular activity.

Some examples:

I used to travel alone, but now I always take my whole family with me.

I was used to traveling alone, so having my whole family along has been a big adjustment for me to make.

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Used to describes an action or state of affairs that was done repeatedly or existed for a period in the past; to be used to (or to get used to) means "be or become familiar with someone or something through experience".

I used to go in southern Italy every summer.
I was used to understand when somebody was lying.

Both the phrases imply that an action has been done repeatedly; they are not used to refer to actions that happened only once.

? I used to go in souther Italy once in all my life.

The NOAD reports the following notes about used to that could interest you.

The construction used to is standard, but difficulties arise with the formation of negatives and questions. Traditionally, used to behaves as a modal verb, so that questions and negatives are formed without the auxiliary verb do, as in:
- It used not to be like that.
- Used she to come here?
In modern English, this question form is now regarded as very formal or old-fashioned and the use with do is broadly accepted as standard, as in:
- Did she use to come here?
Negative constructions with do, on the other hand (as in it didn't use to be like that), although common, are informal and are not generally accepted.

There is sometimes confusion over whether to use the form used to or use to, which has arisen largely because the pronunciation is the same in both cases. Except in negatives and questions, the correct form is used to: we used to go to the movies all the time (not we use to go to the movies). However, in negatives and questions using the auxiliary verb do, the correct form is use to, because the form of the verb required is the infinitive: I didn't use to like mushrooms (not I didn't used to like mushrooms).

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protected by RegDwigнt Nov 28 '12 at 11:53

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