What is the negative form of "I used to be"? I often hear "I didn't used to be" but that sounds awfully wrong in my ears.
The best way* to negate the construction, used to be, is to simply use never and replace the infinitive form of the verb with its past tense. Thus:
It is also correct in some situations to say never used to:
In this case, never used to usually serves as an emphatic negation of something previously stated.
Your example, I used to be, is best negated as I never was/I was never, although, I never used to be and I didn't use to be (grates on my ears!) are also options, depending on the context. For instance:
Also consider the following:
Another similar set of examples:
You should always be able to determine the correct negation to use, as long you keep the definition of used to in mind:
I didn't used to is strictly ungrammatical, though widely used informally or colloquially. (The correct form is didn't use to, although this is also very informal.) Using the past tense of another verb after didn't, in this case used, is grammatically incorrect. Consider this and other similar verb constructions:
Now, the problem with these examples can be rectified by converting the past tense to the infinitive:
Also, did not/didn't always precedes the infinitive form of the verb it helps:
Here is a note from NOAD to back me up:
*(in my opinion, that is)
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This is a surprising development. A pertinent xkcd comic comes to mind. But I am rather drunk now, so I will save myself the trouble of deleting emotional remarks in the morning. For the record, I never typed-and-deleted any such remarks.
This is what the 3rd edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage has to say on used to (my emphasis in bold):
As with so many problems of language, the only satisfying solution seems to lie in recasting the sentence. Writers who want to be read should be prepared to do some work. Opinions differ on the extent to which speech should follow writing, as can be heard on the street every day.
Inspired by the comments, I have a possible answer for the confusion between didn't used to and didn't use to. In general American, I used to is pronounced with an /s/, while I use or I used in other constructions is pronounced with a /z/. I didn't use to is also pronounced with an /s/, but I believe this may be the only time that /use/ is pronounced with an /s/ and not a /z/, so it is a very understandable mistake to transcribe I didn't use to as I didn't used to. As far as I can tell, the /justə/ (or /justu/) part of I didn't use to and I used to are pronounced exactly alike. Except for not giving the pronunciations, this is pretty much what NOAD says, as quoted in Jimi Oke's answer.
A Google Ngram for American English is very enlightening:
People are now usually spelling didn't use to as didn't used to, and this construction is replacing used not to. For British English, you can do the same thing, and you find that while the construction in the UK is still generally used not to, the ungrammatical spelling didn't used to is replacing the grammatical spelling didn't use to.
The form I didn't used to be is in fact correct colloquial English. The more formal variant would be I used not to be, but in contrast with the first version that sounds extremely formal and awkward to most English speakers.
The reason that the "phrase" used to gets this treatment is that this very common phrase has been reanalyzed in colloquial English as an invariant verb yusta. This verb forms a family with hafta ("have to"), gonna ("going to"), gotta ("got to"), wanna ("want to") and others, and shows some properties of a modal and some properties of a normal full verb:
These new modal-esque verbs don't have a progressive or perfect form, and don't combine easily with other modals.
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Mostly you would just say
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protected by RegDwigнt♦ Oct 31 at 20:25
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