What is the difference between "I used to" and "I'm used to" and when to use each of them?

Here, I have read the following example:

I used to do something: "I used to drink green tea."

"I used to drink green tea", means that in the past I drank green tea, but now I don't. Used to describes an action that did happen, but doesn't happen now. Check out these great examples:

"When I was young I used to play with dolls, but I don't anymore."
"Before I passed my driving test, I used to cycle everywhere."

I am used to something: "I am used to drinking green tea."

"I am used to drinking green tea" means that at first, drinking green tea was strange and unusual, but now it has become familiar. To be used to describes an action that was, perhaps, difficult and is now easy. "I am accustomed to green tea" has the same meaning.

But I do not know how accurate it is, so please could any one help me.

  • 6
    What is the cause of your confusion? That seems entirely accurate to me.
    – Gerger
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 15:09
  • 3
    It's accurate. The second example doesn't necessarily means that doing something at first was strange and unusual. It just means that I'm used to doing it now.
    – hfatahi
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 15:15
  • 3
    Ooh, @hfatahi is right. The implication of strangeness is not necessary.
    – Gerger
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 15:20
  • 2
    Used to verb only implies that I don't do this thing any more. This is not part of the meaning. used adjective, meaning 'accustomed' also only implies that this thing was unusual at first, it is not part of the meaning of the adjective. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 16:17
  • 4
    @Araucaria And I'm not even sure the implication is there. "I'm used to showering before bed," for instance, does not at all imply that one once thought it strange or odd to shower before bed. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 17:52

5 Answers 5


It's accurate. The second example doesn't necessarily means that doing something at first was strange and unusual. It just means that I'm used to doing it now.

Basically as stated in the article, "used to" means in the past and you are no longer doing it and "I'm used to" means you are still used or accustomed to doing it

  • 2
    I don't think it is at all accurate to assume that simply because someone is used to doing something that they are still doing it now. I'm used to using my legs to walk. If they got chopped off today, then I would still be used to doing so, even if I no longer could and never would again. Eventually at some time in the future it would no longer be accurate to say that I'm "used to walking with my legs", but not immediately.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 3:09
  • 2
    "I'm used to" does not mean you ARE DOING something now. I'm used to hot weather does not use a dynamic verb, and I could say this at any time of the year. He was used to sleeping four hours a night means that in the past he was accustomed (because of habit) to sleeping four hours but today he is no longer accustomed, maybe he still sleeps four hours but finds it more difficult than in the past. You could also say: He used to sleep 4 hours a night but the meaning changes, here the subject seemed to have had no choice, and the implication is today he does not sleep 4 hours a night.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 3:22
  • I'm used to doing it means I'm used to doing it? That was a circular explanation.
    – Octopus
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 8:10
  • 1
    I used to X = I previously have done X. I'm used to X = I am accustomed to X.
    – Preston
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 12:42
  • @Mari-LouA You are right, I edited my answer.
    – hfatahi
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:35

This is a tough one for non-native speakers.

"Used to do" and "used to be" by themselves are just another way of expressing a past condition.

I used to be a star. [Formerly I was a star.]

He used to do photography, but now he's into watercolor painting. [In the past, he did photography . . .]

But to be used to doing something is rather different. It describes a customary condition.

I am used to getting rained on. [I am accustomed to getting rained on. It's normal for me.]

We were used to being ignored, but not at that level. [We had been habituated to being ignored, but not to that degree.]

  1. I used to smoke, but I've given up.
  2. I am used to living in London.

The best way to get a grip on these is to study them independently, not together. Sentence (1) shows the strange, defective verb used, which takes an infinitive with to. We use it to describe habits and habitual actions in the past. Note that in sentence (1) the infinitival word to grammatically belongs with the verb smoke.

Sentence (2) shows the adjective and preposition combination used to. This phrase means the something very similar to accustomed to. Sentence (2) means:

  • I am accustomed to living in London.

Note that the word to here is a preposition. It is not part of a verb construction.

It is best to learn the verb used to in combination with other ways of talking about habits in the past, for example the use of would to describe routines. It is better to learn about the adjective used along with other adjectives that take dependent prepositions, such as:

  • accustomed to, obsessed with, keen on.

[Note for grammar junkies: there is a view that the verb used has now fused with the word to to form one discrete item. This comes largely from an analysis of phonemic considerations.]

Hope this is helpful!


It's not quite accurate, in my opinion. It is generally true that " used to" implies that the thing being described is no longer happening (e.g., someone who "used to" go on walks probably doesn't go on walks any more), but "is/am used to" does not imply that the thing being described was once considered foreign or unusual. In the green tea example, the given sentence does not imply anything about the speaker's initial attitude toward green tea--to say nothing of whether drinking it was once "difficult"!

There's also a smaller issue--the example says that drinking tea is implied to be "easy" for the speaker. This is also not part of the standard meaning of "used to." One can say "I'm used to working hard," which means merely that hard work is familiar to the speaker; it does not mean that hard work is "easy" for the speaker, at least not in the typical sense of "easy."


"The tree used to be green" tells us that the tree was formerly green but now, alas, is no longer green. "Used to" can be regarded as an auxiliary that's forming a type of past tense.

"The tree is used to being green" tells us that you think the tree is sentient, and that you think it is accustomed to being green. At the very least the tree has resigned itself to being green (which as we know, is not easy)—and who knows, by now it might be so used to being green that it would feel uncomfortable being any other colour. "Used to" is not an auxiliary here, but rather a synonym for "accustomed to". It tells us more than just the action or condition (the being green): it tells us how the condition of being green has changed the tree psychologically. It does not tell us whether or not the tree is green at the moment. It possibly tells us something about the speaker's grasp on reality.

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