Are the following structures synonyms? I used to smoke. I was in the habit of smoking. I got into the habit of smoking. I fell into the habit of smoking.
- I was in the habit of smoking.
- I got in(to) the habit of smoking.
- I fell into the habit of smoking.
- I used to smoke.
(1-4) are all grammatical, and can all be used to describe the same contexts,
but they don't have the same grammar, and they don't mean the same things.
- (4) is an idiomatic past auxiliary construction used to (pronounced /'yustu/ or /'yustə/),
which takes an infinitive complement (here the habitual generic infinitive to smoke).
The others are stative and inchoative uses of the idiom
Det habit of
using a container metaphor, whence in or into:
(1) is a normal stative Locative construction, auxiliary be +
PreoPh; into is not allowed here.
(2) is an inchoative construction (get is an inchoative for be), using the same metaphor.
It comments on the initiation of the habit; if it's considered as motion, into is allowed here.
(3) is a more metaphoric inchoative, adding a gravitational field to the container,
and requiring a motion construal of the initiation as a fall; into is required here.
As for meanings,
(4) states that I smoked at a past time and presupposes that I no longer do.
(1) states that I smoked at a past time and invites the inference that I no longer do.
(2) states that I started to smoke and continued the habit of smoking at a past time.
It says nothing about the present state of my habits; this must be determined from context.
- (3) makes the same statement as (2), but construes the initiation of the habit as an error.
As you can see, there are no synonyms here;
indeed, once you look at the fine structure of anything, there are no real synonyms.
No. All of these constructs could refer to the same thing, but they don't convey the exact same meaning.
"I used to smoke" - perhaps the speaker only smoked occasionally, not habitually, and has since stopped. This sentence doesn't describe a habit, even though it could be referring to one: "I used to smoke two packs a day" would clearly indicate habitual smoking.
"Used to" also works for things we wouldn't describe as habitual: "I used to have a blue car" wouldn't be well replaced with "I was in the habit of having a blue car," for instance.
In the first sentence, the speaker is merely stating a fact. In the other sentences, he focuses on a particular pattern of behaviour : http://www.thefreedictionary.com/get+into+the+habit+of