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Are the following sentences valid:

It didn't used to happen.

It didn't used to have been there.

And if so, what tenses are they?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Didn't used to ..." is a colloquialism (i.e. informal) combining "didn't" and "used to" and both are past tense, like a double negative. And like a double negative, it's not wrong, just not formal. In fact both forms are common and informal.

See http://thestar.com.my/english/story.asp?file=/2007/11/9/lifefocus/19384883&sec=lifefocus

It is used quite often by many people, including journalists:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/102182784.html

http://www.stuhenderson.com/21RACFS.pdf

By the way, although Google NGrams can be misused, I think a direct comparison here using that tool is informative here.

didn't used to vs. didn't use to

It shows that both terms are used and that "didn't used to" has gained ascendancy over the latter half of the 20th century.

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Why didn't you search earlier? I searched from 1750, and "didn't used to" was shown up above. Because of the recent rise of informal speech, it doesn't mean "didn't used to" is necessarily correct. –  Thursagen Jun 3 '11 at 10:24
    
Thank you. What about "didn't used to have been"? When did that come into being, and what tense would you call that? –  Urbycoz Jun 3 '11 at 10:38
    
@Urbycoz: Now there I would draw the line. Although you may find instances of that usage, the plain infinitival form is more what you hear, probably because both expressions derive from "used" + infinitive (used to dance, used to be, used to laugh tour and so on). –  Robusto Jun 3 '11 at 11:00
    
It's certainly true NGrams can mislead, but I suggest this link backs up my feeling that both variations are somewhat archaic, and falling into disuse following their Victorian heyday... ngrams.googlelabs.com/… –  FumbleFingers Jun 3 '11 at 15:48

It should be "use", because "did" already makes it past tense, so "-d" is not needed.

"didn't use" is simple past, and "to have been" is an infinitive with the verb a past perfect.

This graph shows that only recently has "didn't used to" rise in use. This is also characterized with the rise of usage and popularity with many informal and actually incorrect English.

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This is nonsense. –  Robusto Jun 3 '11 at 9:58
    
@Robusto, Why so? Please explain –  Thursagen Jun 3 '11 at 10:03
    
See my answer below. Both forms are used informally everywhere you look. In fact, "didn't used to" is even more common than "didn't use to" is. –  Robusto Jun 3 '11 at 10:14
    
That may be so, sir, but I didn't say they were wrong, just not needed. –  Thursagen Jun 3 '11 at 10:17
1  
+1 for this answer, "didn't used to" is so wrong it can't get any wronger. –  RiMMER Jun 3 '11 at 11:07

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