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This question already has an answer here:

I saw it used in an article online, and it doesn't seem proper to me because of the two past tenses used together. But since "use to" can't be used here, I don't know what would be the proper way.

Care to comment please? Thanks.

[EDIT] The answer here says that "Didn't we use to do ..." is informal and not widely accepted. So what would be the formal way of phrasing it?

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Jun 12 '15 at 9:05

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • This has been asked many times before. See e.g. here, here, or the many related questions linked from these. Please use the site search before asking. – RegDwigнt Jun 12 '15 at 9:08
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    But neither of the questions answer to what is the proper way to ask "Didn't we use to do ...". This only says the format is informal. – shyam Jun 12 '15 at 9:28
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    If you don't want to say "Didn't we use(d) to" because you think it's informal, you have to rephrase it entirely: "Didn't we use to be a delivery company?" would become something like "Weren't we once a delivery company?" – Peter Shor Jun 12 '15 at 10:13
  • Since the OP asks for the "formal" way of rephrasing it, I would not consider the question a clear duplicate. Although I do say "we didn't use to..." a gazillion times a year, and recognize it as grammatical, I would not write The Senate didn't use to follow this rule, whereby.... because "didn't use to" isn't in the same register as "whereby". – TRomano Jun 12 '15 at 14:09
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But since "use to" can't be used here,

Who has told you that?

We didn't use to go swimming a lot, but now we love it.

Is just fine. After a supporting do we use an infinitive, not a conjugated verb.

Any google search for didn't we use to will find you articles about this, like for example this one from LearnEnglish:

Did you use to go out with my sister?
Did they use to own the company?
Didn't we use to go to the same school?

Basically use behaves the same way that any verb does when we switch to do-support: (for completeness, we only look at the simple past here because of the idiomatic usage of use).

He walked to school. -->walked in simple past
He didn't walk to school. -->supporting do in simple past + infinitive
He used to walk to school. -->used in simple past
He didn't use to walk to school. -->supporting do in simple past + infinitive


All that said, in the linked topic it is shown that I didn't used to, although grammatically baffling, has been gaining popularity, probably because of the similar pronunciation. So people decided to always write used without having to think about it.

That we end up with a sentence with to conjugated verbs for one subject in one clause, soit. We need exceptions, right? :)

  • Oh. Don't remember where, but I did read somewhere that only "used to" gives it that meaning. And you're saying use behaves the same way as verbs, but doesn't to go along with use here? So, does used to behave the same way as other verbs? – shyam Jun 12 '15 at 9:06
  • @shyam To is just a preposition that happens to form a common collocation with use. Use behave exactly like walk. If you insist on looking at the whole collocation thing, you can, but the preposition does not change anything, so why bother? Take for example believe in: I believed in miracles -> I didn't believe in miracles. You just conjugate one verb, so when you use supporting do, that's the verb you conjugate and teh main verb stays in the infinitive. – oerkelens Jun 12 '15 at 9:11
  • However, The answer here says "Didn't we use to ..." is informal and not widely accepted. So what would be a proper and formal way to phrase it? – shyam Jun 12 '15 at 9:31
  • @shyam The most upvoted answer there provides you with I used not to ... However, there is a very interesting ngram in another answer there that shows that my answer may be completely wrong when it comes to actual usage :| – oerkelens Jun 12 '15 at 9:35
  • It's not true that used to conjugates like other verbs. For the future, for a normal verb you would change I took to I will take. For I used to, you cannot say I will use to. But you are allowed to say I didn't use to (often spelled I didn't used to). – Peter Shor Jun 12 '15 at 9:59

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