I am comfused between

I used to smoke.


I use to smoke.

What is the meaning of both the sentences?

Are both the sentences grammatically correct?

Actually simple present is also used for showing current habbits so I really wanted to know if it's the correct way to convey about my current habbit of smoking. am i correct on this?


The first one means that you smoked in the past but you do not smoke anymore. The second one is grammatically incorrect.

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  • simple present is also used for current habits. what do you think am I correct ? – Unknown Feb 23 '16 at 8:19
  • @EditingFrank Yes, but you need to explain why the second one is grammatically incorrect. – BillJ Feb 23 '16 at 10:05
  • Actually, "I smoke to use" would make sense. – Hot Licks Feb 23 '16 at 13:27

The simple answer is that the meaning is the same (that at some time in the past, you were a smoker, but you no longer are), but because the verb is "use", and its past tense is "used", it follows that I used to smoke must be grammatically correct. The uncertainty probably arises because "used to" and "use to" are homophonous.

Interestingly, this "use" has no present tense, so although the form "use" appears to be the present form, it is in fact the plain (infinitive) form, which is correctly used in negatives and with inversion: I didn’t use to smoke; Did he use to smoke?

There is the added complication that "use" can be a lexical verb or an auxiliary, though the books tell us that most speakers treat it as a lexical one. I think that’s because of the unacceptability for most of the auxiliary use found in: Used you to smoke? and Smoking usedn’t to be allowed.

(You edited your question to ask about conveying current habits. This "use" has no present tense, only plain and past forms, so to indicate that you smoke now, you'd have to say something like "I'm a smoker", or just "I smoke".

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"I used to smoke" is the only correct way to write it.

However, pronunciation of "used to" in the sentence is different from the way it looks.

The word "used" in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is /ju:zd/, pronounced with a voiced 'd' and 'z'.

But the common pronunciation of "used to" in the way you have described (a past habit or activity you no longer indulge in) will sound like "use to". In IPA we would write it /'ju:s tə/. It's just we don't write it that way.

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As the links and others on this page indicate, the first means that you smoked in the past.

The second claims that you are a user in the same way that "I study to learn" claims that you study (or that you are a student). In this context, it may be understood colloquially to mean you take drugs. Expanded, the second sentence says that you take drugs in order to smoke. This may not be what you intended to convey.

User : a person who frequently uses illegal drugs M-W

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  • Yes, to use has an intransitive usage. – user140086 Feb 23 '16 at 9:07
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    "I'm a user" does not mean "I use to smoke" The two sentences are quite different. Precisely what would this "expanded sentence" be? – Mari-Lou A Feb 23 '16 at 11:24
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    @BillJ The reason why some grammarians classify used to as a quasi-auxiliary is it has very similar properties of an auxiliary verb. As I commented, to use is almost always used as a transitive verb. And the only intransitive usage is what Lawrence mentioned. I don't think explaining "this "use" has no present tense" is an ideal explanation. I would rather emphasize to use should take an object unless you want to mean to use drugs. – user140086 Feb 23 '16 at 11:53
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    Non-native speakers hear "used to" as /'ju:s tə/. That could confuse them. – Cascabel Feb 23 '16 at 13:08
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    @Lawrence: It meant "I am in the habit of X". – Colin Fine Feb 23 '16 at 19:25

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