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I'm learning English grammar with the book by Raymond Murphy: English Grammar in Use [3rd Edition]. In the exercises for unit 61, I have to complete the sentences using used to. I can't understand why I have to say get used to living instead of got used to living for this example:

Sue moved from a big house to a much smaller one. She found it strange at first. She had to __________ in a much smaller house.

Is it past simple or past perfect?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I can see why this would be confusing.

  • She would have to get used to living in a smaller house.
  • She had to get used to living in a smaller house.
  • She had gotten used to living in a smaller house.
  • She got used to living in a smaller house.

All of these are acceptable. Each has a slightly different time reference; the first one is looking ahead, and the last two are looking back.

As Brett indicated, the problem with the one in the book (had to got used to) is you don't use "got" after "to".

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Following to, the verb is in the infinitive and has no tense. So you should use the base form: get. Nor is this the perfect. Here, the had is part of the idiomatic have to, meaning that there was no option but to get used to it.

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There's three (possibly four) different English constructions that contain the string used to.

One (possibly two) is (possibly are) the simple past participle used /yuzd/ plus the complementizer /to/ for a following purpose infinitive

a) The shovel in the garage is used to dig with.

b) The shovel used to dig with is in the garage.

Note -- both (a) and (b) are pronounced /yuzdtu, yuztu, yuzdtə/, or /yuztə/, with a voiced /z/.

Some might consider (a) and (b) different constructions, but I would consider (b) just a Whiz-deleted relative clause, derived from The shovel (which is) used to dig with... That's what I meant above by "(possibly four)." How one counts depends on what one believes one is counting.

The other two constructions containing have to are both idiomatic, which means, in this case, that

  • both idioms have special meanings

    • one (c) means "accustomed to" and the other (d) means "perfective generic or stative"
    • c) I'm not used to typing on this new keyboard yet.
    • d) I used to type on a Dvorak keyboard.
  • both have special grammar

    • (c) used to is a predicate adjective,
    • (c) used requires a preceding be
    • (c) to is a regular preposition, not an infinitive complementizer
    • (c) used to can take a gerund complement, but not an infinitive
    • They are used to him/late lunches/Mexican food/taking risks/sleeping late.

    • (d) used to is a real auxiliary verb

    • (d) used to requires an infinitive complement
    • (d) used to has no tense (rather, it functions as a tense)
    • (d) used to presupposes its complement to be false in the present, though true in the past.
    • They used to like him/eat late lunches/like Mexican food/take risks/sleep late.
  • both (c) and (d) have (the same) special pronunciation

    • both idioms fuse the string used to into a single word (/yustə/ occasionally /yustu/),
    • both idioms always pronounce this with voiceless /s/, never with voiced /z/.
    • both idioms disallow (or at least disapprove of) separation of the used and the to
    • Occasionally, when the spirit moved him, he used to walk over and buy a beer.
    • *He used, occasionally, when the spirit moved him, to walk over and buy a beer.

(If you think you find this grammatical, consider whether you're pronouncing "used ... to" as /yus...tə/ or /yuzd ... tə/ or /yust ... tə/. None of them sound write; this is one construction that occurs practically only in writing, and then only for readers who don't hear what they're reading in their mind's ear.)

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